The scheduled dates for Tuska Open Air are always marked in a metalhead’s calendar and eagerly awaited. In 2012, Tuska took place from June 29th to July 1st. For the second time, the festival was held in the industrial area in Helsinki, Suvilahti, and once again, the crowd was mercilessly burned by the sun. This year’s lineup was very promising, but unfortunately, most of the “promising” bands were scheduled on Friday. We ended up having a very busy first day, while the following days were relatively relaxed.
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As far as my memory goes, this was the third year in a row that Tuska’s main stage was opened at an ungodly hour by some Bay Area thrashers. In 2010 it was Testament, in 2011 Forbidden, and this time it was Exodus. Calling forth an unbelievable force of willpower, I again persuaded myself to be there that early enough to watch. Otherwise, what kind of a thrash fan am I? Armed with a Jägermeister hat and a bottle of water, off we went to get bonded by blood. I suppose it is common knowledge that Gary Holt is currently on tour with Slayer, replacing Jeff Hanneman. So he, in turn, was replaced by Rick Hunolt, who left Exodus back in 2005. It was a slight disappointment for me that Holt was away on his Slayer-duty, but that didn’t last very long. In true Exodus fashion, the show was insane, with all the regular antics – circle pits and a wall of death – performed by the crowd. Of course, it couldn’t be as intense as seeing them in a small club, but still a brain-crushing, neck-cracking, headbanging experience nonetheless.
A few hours later, we dropped by the Hellsinki Rock Shop stage for a quick fix of doom courtesy of Saint Vitus. I don’t want to say anything negative about this band in particular – they are true legends and all respect goes to them – it’s just that normally doom metal makes me want to kill myself. Repeatedly. However, this is all fun and games, until doom metal gets accompanied by the sun microwaving your brains. I do want to believe that whoever got themselves through Saint Vitus’ performance enjoyed it to the fullest.
Our next stop were Arcturus, who, thankfully, played in the tented Inferno Stage. Kudos to the organizers for putting them there, as sunlight does not belong at an Arcturus show. Having seen them magnificently headline Inferno Festival in Oslo in April, I was excited about this show like a kid on Christmas morning. Naturally, it was stripped-down to a much more simple set-up, but as long as ICS Vortex brought his crazy faces, everything else was fine. Dressed in some sort of futuristic outfit, accompanied by goggles on his head, Vortex drew in everyone – even those who were seeing the band for the first time – and left them simply mesmerized. Arcturus’ performance was overlapping by Hatebreed on the Hellsinki stage though, and we had to leave earlier to catch them as well, because, you know, “born to bleed, fighting to succeed!” Jamey Jasta’s picture should be in the dictionary, right next to the word “kickass.” Hatebreed shows are always like a ball of energy that bursts all over the audience – dynamic, upbeat, and it simply makes you feel like you can take on the fucking world.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was time for Megadeth to take over the main stage and headline the first day. Just 2 years ago they headlined the last Tuska day and nothing seemed to have changed since then. Megadeth are still a mix of possibly the best guitar players and the most terrible vocals. The technical precision leaves no questions to be asked – they’re always on top. It seemed to me though, that Dave Mustaine enjoyed playing to the camera man much more than to the rest of the crowd. All eyes had to be on him, even those that were too far away and had to rely on the screens. Naturally, most of the hit songs were present in the setlist, and it would be even nicer if you could pretend not to hear the vocals. But axe-men Ellefson and Broderick made this dire experience a much better one. Day one was over.
The 1st day’s after-parties got a bit out of hand, so the second day started late and very appropriately with Napalm Death. Aside from the band’s name, this could also be a good name for the hangover state. Even though they have started to shift away from grindcore on their latest records, Napalm Death always have and always will put on a killer show. Naturally, this was very much appreciated by the audience, who, as if it was their first day, were full of energy and ready to mosh, run in circles, and unleash all sorts of hell.
We briefly checked out Insomnium, who, in my opinion, are one of the most sophisticated bands in the Finnish metal scene. Of course the sun spoiled the overall impression a bit, because Insomnium are more suited for winter darkness. The set was calm and gave some people a chance to take a breather before carrying on with their festival activities. Next up on the main stage was Sonata Arctica, who have always been huge in Finland. While the power metal genre to me seems overly pompous, the crowded area in front of the stage begged to differ. Sonata Arctica spiced up their set with everyone’s favorites from their discography, but also didn’t leave out the new stuff, which is so damn catchy – it’s the kind that hopelessly gets stuck in your head.
Finally, it was time for the most awaited act on the Hellsinki stage – the mighty Behemoth. It was a huge shame that not only they weren’t the headliners, but they didn’t even make it to the main stage. The silent “why!” cry remains unanswered. It was a very special feeling to see Nergal back on stage for the first time after everything he has gone through and it’s truly a miracle that he is still able to do this. It was an insanely inspiring performance and I couldn’t help feeling a lump in my throat when he shouted, “It feels good to be alive!” It was great to see that the band was as fiery and energetic as ever, receiving a very warm and well-deserved welcome from the crowd.
After an unrivaled performance by Behemoth, anything Sabaton could do would have seemed bleak and boring, so I decided to call it a day. Those of us who stayed behind disagreed profusely, but I suppose that boils down to your taste in music. Sunday was almost upon us and it was going to be interesting.
One of the main topics at Tuska that was discussed by everyone everywhere was the recent incarceration of Lamb of God’s vocalist, Randy Blythe, that happened 2 days before the festival started. They had to cancel their Sunday performance at Tuska and organizers were in great luck when Finntroll happened to be available and agreed to play. But let’s start from the beginning.
First up, to everyone’s pleasure on the main stage was Apocalyptica. I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again: it doesn’t matter how often you get to see them, their shows are always incredibly entertaining and exciting. My only unfulfilled dream would be to see Corey Taylor sing “I’m Not Jesus” live with them, and who knows, maybe someday this will happen. Who could ever imagine that cellos could be such rocking instruments? In the right hands, they apparently can be! Apo haven’t released anything for a few years, so their set was full of golden oldies, not that anyone had any problem with that.
As a result of all the rescheduling, Overkill were moved from the Hellsinki stage to the main stage to warm a thrasher’s heart. They blasted an awesome show and it was great to see that the kids were able to appreciate it to the fullest. Very loud, metal, and aggressive – what else is there to want?! They also mentioned Randy Blythe’s situation and expressed their hopes that justice will prevail. I had to run away for interview duties and unfortunately couldn’t stay to the end of their set.
The next ones to catch were the heroes of the day – Finntroll. The guys showcased their professionalism, being able to pull off an amazing show on such a short notice. Songs from Nifelvind and Ur Jordens Djup dominated their setlist, but some old crowd-pleasers were also in order. It’s practically impossible to stand still during this band’s shows. Even if you don’t feel like dancing, you will still find yourself tapping along or nodding your head to the tunes. The insanely catchy and energetic “Finnish Lamb of God” were possibly the best replacement to improve the situation somehow.
Closing Tuska festival was Ministry and another “why!” remained unanswered. Noteworthy, the majority of festival goers left after Finntroll and the main stage area was quite empty. Al Jourgensen resembled a cardboard puppet and it was painful to look at him. This show was nothing like what they used to do – there were no proper stage effects, nothing exciting. And if you are not a nostalgic fan of the band – being there was a waste of time.
So we bid our farewell to Tuska 2012 and are already anticipating what’s to come next year! Bring it!
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Cornelia Wickel