Tuska Open Air is the pride of the Finnish metal world. Recently it has changed its location from greenish Kaisaniemi park to the rough industrial Suvilahti area, easy to reach with the Helsinki metro. While Tero was the one in charge with the festival atrocities, I made my way again to the club gigs that happen after each of the festival days. The official Tuska festival afterparties are well known today as “continuation gigs”. As the blue Nordic summer night (rather like evening/dawn) sets in, hundreds gather to form queues at the popular venues Virgin Oil and Nosturi.
However, Helsinki is ever-restless especially in summer, and so the metal parties started early in the week, on Thursday, with a double event night: BARREN EARTH in On the Rocks and an acoustic gig with GRENDEL in PRKL Club. Although unrelated to Tuska, these were sure highlights for the following reasons: musicians who know how to do their job, a laid-back fun-loving crowd, good drinks and very fine locations in the heart of the capital city. Well, the metal celebrations in Helsinki did have a good start!
BARREN EARTH is a supergroup that also played at Tuska within a short time notice, as they were asked to replace a band on the bill. So, there were two chances to see the members of Moonsorrow, Swallow the Sun and Kreator. Their progressive death mix features the stunning vocals of Mikko Kotamaki (Swallow the Sun), who can switch easily and beautifully from black to death and to clean vocals.
MOONSORROW is remembered by many as one of the top gigs in Tuska this year. Although I have considerably lost interest lately in their heathen metal, I totally enjoyed the gig for its dynamics, fiery atmosphere, and good band & fans communication. It was what every fan and every artists desire from a gig. Virgin Oil is one amazing indoor venue and it was packed on its two levels with enthusiastic fans. It was something any metalhead would have enjoyed, be they a MOONSORROW fan or not.
Saturday night, Nosturi pulled the crowd towards the Western shores in Helsinki, in another industrial/harbor setting. It was time for a well-thought-out doom metal night, to be started with SHAPE OF DESPAIR in slow, desolate, eerie tunes melting in darkness and stillness. Nevertheless, we were set for a big change. BEFORE THE DAWN was in and was a welcome surprise. As we couldn’t have the promised BLACK SUN AEON formula complete due to a member’s illness, mainman Tuomas Saukkonen brought his other band on the Nosturi stage. Thus he broke the all-doom bill for the night and delivered his nice gothic/melodeath act. A fortunate change for many, no complaints – the guys revived the place and infused it with their energy. Melodicity lacked though because Lars Eikind, former bassist in charge of trademark clean vocals, was no longer in the band. However, people around were very pleased with the demonstration of skill. Tuomas focused on the band’s latest album. A very fulfilling gig, and the words of praise were not just a few.
Next in line was KYPCK, the doom act featuring SENTENCED man Sami Lopakka and his fabulous riffle-shaped guitar. The band performs songs only in Russian and I must say the combo is quite catchy live and not as rough or unpalatable as would be expected. Born as a supergroup, KYPCK delivers rather solid tunes and can even inspire a pretentious and experienced crowd as we had in Nosturi to headbang.
At the end of the weekend, OCTOBER RUST playing Type O Negative was one hell of an evening. Must say it is a quite incredible feeling when you meet a lot of new friends and old ones as well, or people you simply knew from somewhere, all in the same location for the same gig. And this one had a different feel to it – no more brutality and gloom, but pure rock party, cheer and smiles. I’m glad I went to see this, not only for the vocal’s presence (J.P. Leppaluoto – HARMAJA, ex-CHARON, one of Finland’s best frontmen and a sex symbol if you ask the ladies), but also for the grab-a-drink-and-sway-around action. Lovely. J.P. spoiled us with his deep sensual, velvety, yet bitter voice, infusing passion in every Type O song in the show. His mates were bassist Lauri Porra, known for his work with STRATOVARIUS and for the blood ties with classical composer Jean Sibelius.
Mind you, it was hard to leave Virgin Oil after such an exciting Tuska finale, but at least there are the memories, the pictures and the friendships.