The festival season has now started for my part as I attended South Park festival as one should in June. This time only Saturday for me though. This year the festival offered acts such as Slayer, Triptykon, Amorphis and Battle Beast on Friday, while Bullet for My Valentine was the headliner on Saturday after Soilwork, Diablo, Thunderstone, Powerwolf and others had done their bit. The selection of bands was considerably more orientated towards heavier music this year compared to the two previous; a development I welcome gladly.
I really looked forward to seeing Thunderstone. I have only seen the band one time before, and I believe that was nine years ago in Kalajoki. It was good to see singer Pasi Rantanen back in business after being absent from the band for some years. The band entered the stage already at 2:30 p.m. so the audience was not huge at the time, but more and more people were drawn towards the main stage during the set. Thunderstone offered songs from all of their six studio albums, which I find very positive. Furthermore, four songs from the new album and three songs from Evolution 4.0 is perfect in my opinion.
- Veterans of the Apocalypse
- The Path
- Dirt Metal
- Through the Pain
- 10.000 Ways
- Down With Me
- Let the Demons Free
- Tool of the Devil
- Until We Touch the Burning Sun
Thunderstone released the album Apocalypse Now in April this year, and the four songs they played from it worked well live. I have not listened through the album that many times yet, but I can say that it is a grower. Thus, I hope they will play some of the other songs live as well later on. Rantanen seemed to have problems with the higher notes in the beginning, but to his defence I believe there was some problem with his microphone. At least it sounded better after he got another one. The new always smiling drummer Atte Palokangas is also fun to watch and he plays really well, which applies to the rest of the band members as well.
One thing that I found strange was that Thunderstone only played the first slower part of Down With Me and then passed on to Let the Demons Free. There would have been time to play the whole song, and I think it is a little unnecessary to play only a part of song that is not so terribly long in the first place. This is obviously not a big deal, but I really would have liked to hear the whole of Down With Me since it is a great song. One thing I really enjoy with Thunderstone live is the fact that the members master the art of singing in parts really well. Many bands rely on backtracks in situations which require several voice parts, but Thunderstone manages singing in parts well without such assistance, which gives plus points in my book. During the last song, Until We Touch the Burning Sun, it started to rain a little after being sunny for quite a while. The irony.
After getting our things to the hotel and finding something to eat, we returned to the festival area to watch Powerwolf, a band I have absolutely no experience of. I would say that they sound quite a great deal like Sabaton, but I prefer the voice of Powerwolf’s singer Attila Dorn any day of the week. Anyway, the band members look like they play black metal although they play quite straight forward power metal with some darker influences. There is apparently some kind of werewolf/vampire thing going on here, and some song titles and lyrics may appear quite dark at first. However, a closer look on lyrics and titles reveals that the band does not take themselves all too seriously. They are pretty fun to watch and there is not really anything to complain about music wise. In my opinion there is a little too much talking and trying to get the audience to sing all kinds of long melodies (which by the way is really difficult if one is new to the song). Powerwolf could have played another song instead. Oh, and another thing. Why does this band not have a bass player? Powerwolf will return to Finland in October to play in Helsinki and Tampere again.
Next out on the main stage was Swedish Soilwork. I have seen these guys live many times these last years, and I can say that they never disappoint. They always get the crowd going with their faster songs such as Follow the Hollow, and the band’s energy seems to be contagious. The sound mix has not been that great some of the times I have seen them live before, but this time it was really good, which Soilwork is definitely worthy of. Singer Björn “Speed” Strid really shone this Saturday evening and nailed pretty much all the difficult higher notes as well as everything else. It was probably the best performance by him that I have seen. This time the band had a stand-in drummer, since Dirk Verbeuren is currently playing with Megadeth. Danish stand-in Bastian Thusgaard does not impede Soilwork at all, but is fully capable of playing Verbeuren’s tricky rhythms. All in all, Soilwork once again treated the audience to a well played set and finished with Stabbing the Drama, which is always a killer song live. Do catch these guys live if you have not already.
Then it was time for Diablo on the tent stage. I have now seen the band live three times in a year, and I think this gig was better than the two previous ones. This is mostly due to the fact that this was the first time that they had no technical issues, which meant that the flow of the set was much more enjoyable. Diablo played songs such as Symbol of Eternity, Trail of Kings, The Call, Savage, Mimic47, The Preacher and Prince of the Machine. Read My Scars is a song that works unbelievably well live, also this time. Singer/guitarist Rainer Nygård shouts “READ”, and the audience answers “MY SCARS”. One song that I have been dying to hear is D.O.A from the album Mimic47, but I do not think that they have played that one at all since they returned from their hiatus. Also, it would be awesome to hear the title track from Silvër Horizon, which I know that they have played, but sadly not with me present. Of course, Diablo only had an hour to play this time, so it is not realistic to expect any rarities.
Diablo is getting into a really great live shape and the songs sound tight as three guys in the backseat of a Nissan Micra. I want to take a moment to appreciate lead guitarist Marko Utriainen, who is probably one of the most underrated guitar players in the country. Namely, I would say that he is one of the best. The very guitar driven sound of Diablo makes heavy demands, which Utrianen delivers in a very refined manner. All the band members do a very fine job, and the tent crowd got to see a Diablo that is certainly back in business.
Bullet for My Valentine got the honour to bring this year’s South Park to a close. It has been quite a while since I last saw these guys live, and that time the sound was awful. This time it was great. BFMV has actually developed into a really good live act these past years, and I am actually a little surprised by how well they perform now. One reason to the clear improvement is the new bass player/(backing) vocalist Jamie Mathias, who is actually both a better singer and screamer than the band’s front man Matt Tuck. This does not mean that Tuck is bad, only that Mathias is better. Mathias steps into the breach in the more difficult singing parts, for example the refrain of You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War). Consequently, this results in a better performance on the whole since Tuck now gets some relief which means that he can do his own parts better. Also, the two occasionally burst into part-singing and do it with credit.
I think BFMV played a good selection of songs. The audience was spared from songs like Hearts Burst into Fire, Fever and Temper Temper, and instead the band played heavier songs. The set included tracks like Your Betrayal, Raising Hell, Scream Aim Fire, Tears Don’t Fall, Waking the Demon and my personal favourite Alone (Trivia: Gojira’s Global Warming + outro part of Be’lakor’s Countless Skies = intro of BFMV’s Alone). Just like Soilwork, BFMV also had a stand-in drummer, Jason Bowld. He did a good job. I do not know why in the world he got to have a drum solo though. Seriously, few things bore me as much as drum solos nowadays, mostly because they all turn out so similar. I will not be impressed until anyone brings out congas, bongos or something like that on the stage. Otherwise, there is nothing to complain about concerning BFMV’s gig. Sure, the band did not exactly do anything over-the-top (pun intended), but they perform very professionally and still retain the feeling to their music.
This year’s South Park had about 9000 visitors and it is already clear that the festival will be arranged next year as well. I will probably be there as usual since it is always a very pleasant experience to start the festival season in Eteläpuisto in Tampere.