Live Report - Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2011 - Helsinki, Finland
Live Gig

Release year: 2011
Reviewed by Aleksie

The Tuska Open Air Metal Festival circa 2011 was a different experience from the getgo due to the location of the festival changing for the first time in 10 years from the Kaisaniemi park to the Suvilahti festival grounds near the harbor area of Helsinki. A change at first greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism by several sources, it eventually turned out as expected, with both good and bad results on easy display.

In terms of the general surroundings, vibe and atmosphere, I don’t think there is a way in hell anyone can say the change was for the better. The trees-and-shrubbery-around-a-gravel-field of Kaisaniemi was now switched to the concrete-laden fortress that is the Suvilahti area right beside the headquarters of the Helsinki Energy Company. It’s like an abandoned amusement park without the rides, put it like that.

On the other hand, the Suvilahti area is a lot roomier. It simply accommodates more people so it probably made financial sense for the organisers. Also, Kaisaniemi was overall a pretty rectangular festival area which could easily result in the festival goers swamping single sections of the park and making movement through the crowd very slow and annoying. Suvilahti is more like a circle, so it was easier to move around and find room. The new area also accommodated different food vendors, merch stands, drinking areas, free customer water faucets and the stages themselves (4 all in all) a bit more nicely. You didn’t have to go from end to end to get different things like you did at the park.

Then of course there were little things like Kaisaniemi having the trees for shade that gave you respite from the scorching summer sun while in Suvilahti, you had to worry less about the annual swarm of sea gulls that came for the dropped food scraps at the end of each day. The Kaisaniemi park is also right there, a block away from the central railway station, whereas to get to Suvilahti you needed to bother at least three to five underground/railcar-stops (which yeah, still isn’t THAT much). But overall, I’d predict that if you place more emphasis on the aesthetic qualities of a festival, the change was certainly a disappointment. If you place more emphasis on convenience and especially faster drinking water, the change wasn’t bad at all.

FRIDAY JULY 22

To start off the musical festivities of the year, we had underappreciated Bay Area-maulers Forbidden bringing the thrash. Although their latest record Omega Wave was hit and miss for me, the new tunes brought more life on the stage. As far as the classics go, one can’t say anything mediocre about searing cuts like Through Eyes Of Glass. Spin that neck, baby.

Arch Enemy brought the revolution in spades and they were finally spared the main stage slot that they have been fitted to for many years. Ya see, a few years they absolutely packed one of Tuska’s side-tents to the point where the mosh pit was so crowded that I recall ambulance-personnel being necessary when all was said and done. Well yeah, a pit doesn’t have to be big or crowded for that but you should get my point. Back to the present, a great sampling of both the new Khaos Legions-album and classics for the group (although that mid-tempo No Gods, No Masters still has not clicked with me at all). Vocalist Angela Gossow has really embraced the “guerrilla preacher”-aura for the stage, which I find convincing enough. Approximate setlist:

Intro: Khaos Overture
Yesterday is Dead and Gone
Revolution Begins
Ravenous
My Apocalypse
Bloodstained Cross
Dead Eyes See No Future
I Am Legend / Out for Blood
Under Black Flags We March
No Gods, No Masters
We Will Rise
Nemesis
Fields Of Desolation

In this year’s “corner of legends” we had a very interesting combatant as the semi-retired At The Gates had arrived to slaughter our souls with their pioneering brand of deaththrash. A slightly frustrating gig overall because although the sounds and musicianship were very good, the performance of these Swedish veterans left a lil’ taste of phoning-it-in in my mouth. Considering how many killer songs they ripped through here such an idea feels preposterous indeed, but to me things just didn’t click all that perfectly. At least vocalist Tomas Lindberg was in fierce form both on the mic and with his sparse banter. Approximate setlist:

Intro: The Flames Of The End
Slaughter Of The Soul
Cold
The Swarm
Terminal Spirit Disease
Suicide Nation
Raped By the Light of Christ
Under a Serpent Sun
Forever Blind
Windows
World of Lies
Unto Others
The Burning Darkness
Nausea
The Beautiful Wound
Souls of the Evil Departed
Need

Encore:
Blinded By Fear
Kingdom Gone


Spiritual Beggars was a definite positive surprise for the weekend with awesome grinding on the Hammond-organ and their singer putting on a real soulful Dio/Russel Allen-style belting on the crowd. The band’s stoner-infused hård rock has been good-not-great to me on records but man, they grooved like a possessed moose here. Also count the day’s second show for both Michael Amott and Sharlee D’Angelo, soldiering on mere hours after Arch Enemy’s show. Approximate setlist:

Beneath the Skin
Left Brain Ambassadors
Wonderful World
Fool’s Gold
We Are Free
One Man Army
Throwing Your Life Away
Star Born
Magic Spell
Mantra
Euphoria

Morbid Angel was lethally effective again, from Azagthoth’s searing guitar work to Tim Yeung’s pulverizing drumming to the ocean of charisma that is also known as David Vincent’s voice. All the requisite latex and such may be cheesy indeed, but that voice! Great choices of songs, even from the much maligned Illud Divinum Insanus. Pretty much the most traditional death metal tunes of the record were the ones that got played. And good god, I mean satan, I Am Morbid slays live. Oh and ANGEL OF DISEASE!! Oh hell yeah. We indeed bowed to them faithfully. Approximate setlist:

Immortal Rites
Fall From Grace
Rapture
Pain Divine
Maze of Torment
Sworn to the Black
Existo Vulgoré
Nevermore
I Am Morbid
Angel of Disease
Lord of All Fevers and Plague
Chapel of Ghouls

Encore:
Dawn of the Angry
Where the Slime Live
Blood on My Hands
God of Emptiness
World of Shit (The Promised Land)

SATURDAY JULY 23

Mild shades of a hangover gave way quickly enough as the day’s ceremonies were jumpstarted by the spirited thrash attack of Witchery’s bloodstained show. The gig also solidified bass player Sharlee D’Angelo as the workhorse-MVP of the festival, as this was his third concert within a 24-hour period. Epica followed onto the main stage soon after and put on a grandiose display of pomp and symphonics, but I gotta say that their brand of metal felt a bit sluggish after the rapid fire beating given by Witchery. Not the fairest of comparisons, I admit. Also, it didn’t help that the guitars were woefully inaudible in the chock-full mix until about halfway to the set. After the sound engineer woke up, the 6-strings were fortunately brought back to our ears.

Moonsorrow proved its mettle with a blistering set of mammoth riffs and an attitude fitted to make heathens of even the most devout men of the cross. Ville Sorvali’s tortured throat is a very powerful stage weapon and with masterful tunes such as KIVENKANTAJA!! in the set, good times were had. The only unfortunate thing was that many of Moonsorrow’s most awesome songs take such a long chunk of an abbreviated festival setlist, that stuff like Tulimyrky just gets played so seldom, if at all. Approximate setlist:

Köyliönjärven Jäällä (Pakanavedet II)
Tähdetön
Muinaiset
Kivenkantaja
Aurinko ja Kuu

Then we got to the point many, many had been anticipating not just for the festival thus far, but for years and years. Here they finally were in the flesh even if not yet on their Chinesedemocratic second album – Jari Mäenpää and his Wintersunny compatriots ripping out some of the finest melodeath that oodles and oodles of RAM can (and in some cases can’t) handle. Hell, when you have a show start with the megalomaniacal riff that kicks off Beyond the Dark Sun, you think a pit is gonna form? Well, not exactly. Because what formed was a BRUTAL pit. Or was that a dream? Can’t be sure but I’ll tell ya what wasn’t a dream: the new tune The Way of The Fire, which should be on the hopefully-upcoming album. Epic guitars and keys, savage frostiness here and there, great stuff. Wintersun was still in top form so hopefully their recording woes are also largely a thing of the past. Approximate setlist:

Beyond the Dark Sun
Battle Against Time
Sleeping Stars
Winter Madness
Death and the Healing
The Way of The Fire
Starchild

Blind Guardian was probably the band I was most anticipating this year. For sheer singalong-value in metal, you really can’t beat these lovable Krauts. Their new material with the two epic numbers worked really well amongst the hits and man oh man was I a happy power metal camper when the one song that they played off the admittedly “semi-great” A Twist In The Myth was the very best one the album has, Turn the Page. When Time Stands Still, so did the audience with the assorted flying fists en masse and while I’m sure this crowd’s vocal rendition of The Bard’s Song (Forest edition) didn’t exactly give anyone flashbacks of the excellent Looking Glass-DVD, damn is it always a highlight. The kind that you kind of already take for granted but when just taking a second to appreciate, how awesome it always is, it’s not to be taken for granted. Approximate setlist:

Sacred Worlds
Welcome to Dying
Nightfall
Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)
Turn the Page
Valhalla
Tanelorn (Into the Void)
Wheel of Time
The Bard's Song - In the Forest
Mirror Mirror

Helming the Saturday on main stage was the brilliant Canadian cackler Devin Townsend with his Project people. Or should I say was again, as Devin’s posse was also present at Tuska 2010 with a double show and back in April of 2011, did two great club shows here. So that’s a lotta Devin for two years in Finland. Not complaining at all, by the way, although I did feel that since between these five shows (excluding the playing-all-of-Ziltoid-gig) the group’s setlist hadn’t changed all that much, this year’s show wasn’t quite as mindblowing and awesome, while still really good. Juular and Pixillate spiced things up a little bit and hey, if stuff like Supercrush! and DEEP PEACE OMG THE GUITAR SOLO!!! are among the “regulars”, one should shut up and enjoy. This show was also made special by featuring the immaculate Anneke van Giersbergen on guest vocals for most of the songs. She might’ve actually had a bit of a rough pitch night to start with but that’s more due to her own high standards set on The Gathering’s records and her solo work. A very cool addition to the whole set with many tunes, especially those from Addicted, given the dose of brilliance that you get on the records as well. Gave Devin someone extra to shoot banter with too, which is also entertaining. Approximate setlist:

Addicted!
Supercrush!
Kingdom
Deadhead
Truth
Om
Pixillate
By Your Command
Numbered!
Stand
Juular
Color Your World
Hyperdrive
Deep Peace


SUNDAY JULY 24

On Sunday, with whatever juices were left in our depleted bodies (and flasks), we dragged on over to be pleasantly invigorated by first the three guitar black n’ punk onslaught of Norway’s Kvelertak and then by the hyperactive rhythmic avalanche of Meshuggah. Most academically adept moshpit I’ve ever seen and a large one at that, lemme tell ya. My perennial favourite, New Millennium Cyanide Christ, was exceptionally exquisite. Approximate setlist:

Rational Gaze
Stengah
Pravus
Combustion
Lethargica
Perpetual Black Second
Bleed
New Millennium Cyanide Christ
Straws Pulled At Random
Future Breed Machine

After the math-wizardry, one of the side tents was invaded by one more surprise, Jex Thoth. This American band had a very interesting, acid-tinged take on some vintage Sabbath-style riffage laced with solid female vocals straight outta Mount Vesuvius. The proceedings may have dragged a little as the gig went on with similar stylings pouring out steadily, but as far as first contacts go, this Californian collective left an impression.

Ever since singer Tomi Joutsen came to take over the microphone-duties in Amorphis, they have been one of the most reliable festival steamrollers of our fair country. From the boulderweight rhythm core to the lush melodic webs to Joutsen flawlessly alternating between the growls and the croons…THE! SMOKE!...all crowned by his wacky old school microphone. Huge points also for Crack In a Stone as one of the selections from their latest album. Approximate setlist:

My Enemy
Sky Is Mine
The Smoke
Song of the Troubled One
You I Need
Towards and Against
My Kantele
Silver Bride
Crack in a Stone
Into Hiding
House Of Sleep

Based on pure crowd reactions, the anticipation for Turisas was right up there with Wintersun. As the leatherclad legion of faces painted red took the stage with a roaring rendition of To Holmgard And Beyond, it was pretty apparent that some form of Varangian heritage had entered the madmen and -women flailing around me. They had good reason to do so, after all. Especially on a metal-scale, Turisas is able to marry their quality tunes with a brilliant spirit for a show. Not so much in a tech-flashy pyro manner that is, but by thrashing around the stage and leading the audience into a myriad of chants, motions, shouts and the like. Warlord Nygård is a damn fine front man with the voice and the necessary charisma to pull off the ringleader’s role in such a regiment. It’s clear that the band has a certain amount of tongue in the cheek and they are so much better off for it. This gig was also a neat send-off in retrospect, as we were able to see this line-up of Turisas before the personnel changes that took place eventually. What was also hilarious was the at-least-20-minute tug of war for one of Turisas' drummer's drum sticks that transpired right after the band left the stage and was done throwing around their merch. Approximate setlist:

To Holmgard and Beyond
One More
Take the Day!
The March of the Varangian Guard
In the Court of Jarisleif
The Great Escape
Fields of Gold
Hunting Pirates
Sahti-Waari
Battle Metal

And finally, to cap off 3 days of molten metal mayhem, the Swedish vikings of Amon Amarth rode their pillaging yacht onto the main stage and delivered what was a very good if not stupendous set of epic death metal. I have to admit that coming in I was a tad surprised at AA being slotted as the last performer of the entire festival but I guess this gig showed me their true current stature. Lots of roaring fire pillars and explosions coloured the stage as the band churned through their brutal tales with conviction and also humour. The guys never could stop smiling and tell jokes between songs which did contrast their material nicely. I guess from a personal point of view the closing artist could’ve been someone else with a loftier stature, but I’m sure any bigger fan of AA would adamantly disagree with me. Approximate setlist:

War of the Gods
Free Will Sacrifice
The Last With Pagan Blood
Destroyer of the Universe
Live for the Kill
Live Without Regrets
For The Stabwounds In Our Backs
Doom Over Dead Man
Asator
Guardians of Asgaard
Varyags of Miklagaard
Cry of the Black Birds
Slaves of Fear
For Victory or Death
Death in Fire
Runes to My Memory
Twilight of the Thunder God
The Pursuit of Vikings

So all in all, Tuska circa 2011 was a very enjoyable weekend-long maelstrom of metal that was nailed down most notably by expected consistency. The bands that I was already looking forward to delivered in appropriate spades while no one I saw particularly either disappointed or surprised me on an unexpected level. Spiritual Beggars and Jex Thoth were the biggest “outofthebluers”, if I’d had to name some. Here’s a cheery THANKS to the bands, fans and organizers and a big-it-up for many more years and festivals to come.

Killing Songs :
Aleksie quoted no quote
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