Festival Report: Saturday 24.6 at Nummirock, Kauhajoki


This year’s Nummirock had a fairly strong and consistent line-up with band such as Devil Driver, Epica, Rhapsody, Insomnium, Wintersun, Raised Fist, Jinjer, Shade Empire, Ensiferum and many more. As is now more or less custom for me, I attended Nummirock on Saturday evening. The weather was rainy and it could not have been more than 10-12 °C, so wearing T-shirt and shorts was not an alternative this time.

We entered the festival area just as Epica started their gig on the main stage. I have not listened a great deal to Epica, but I can say that the band’s music works very well live in my opinion. Epica had to face a rather cold and therefore quite sedate audience, but the band members did their best to get the people moving. Epica started out with Edge of a Blade and A Phantasmic Parade from the new album The Holographic Principle, and these songs fits very well in the live set. They also played older songs such as Cry for the Moon, Sancta Terra and the gig’s last song Consign to Oblivion.

Escapade
Coen Janssen of Epica wanted to be closer to the audience. Photo by Jussi Panula

Epica is really fun to watch because the members really put on a show. I particularly enjoyed keyboardist Coen Janssen’s escapades down from the stage to be close to the audience with his unconventional, small, circular and portable keyboard. Furthermore, singer Simone Simons sings extremely well, but it was sometimes difficult to hear her voice properly due to slightly blurred sound. Epica is definitely worth seeing live even if you are not that familiar with the band’s music. I will have to give the band’s discography a real chance.

Next up was Whispered, the Finnish samurai metallers. These guys play some kind of progressive melodeath with some serious vibes from the Land of the Rising Sun. Whispered began their set with the song Strike, which I think is a really cool song. Some other songs of the set were Jikininki, Kensei, Lady of the Wind and an unexpected cover of Matti Nykänen’s terrible song Samurai. I can assure you that Whispered’s version was a lot better.

Whispered offer some really interesting guitar work, but there was something that was not right with the mix of the gig. The guitars were too low and the bass and bass drum occasionally made some additional unwanted sounds. Consequently, some of the really cool guitar parts did not sound as they should, which was indeed a shame. Still, the band delivered a well played set with a lot of energy. Do check them out if you are into Children of Bodom and the like.

After a break to avoid the rain for a while and to increase the layer of clothing, we returned to the main stage where Rhapsody played. The Italian symphonic power metal band is currently out on a reunion/farewell tour. I am not conversant in this mess, but it seems to include copyright issues with the original band name and later a division into two different bands. Anyway, this is a short reunion and at the same time a farewell tour.

Rhapsody
Rhapsody in the Finnish Midsummer weather. Photo by Jussi Panula.

I have never listened to Rhapsody because I have lost all interest in traditional power metal with age. However, power metal usually works quite well live, and I think Rhapsody delivered a good set.  Still, there are a three things that annoyed me. Firstly, that bloody drum solo. I believe I have written this before, but it shall be repeated. There are few things in this world that bores me as much as drum solos, so please stop including them in the sets, especially at fairly short festival gigs. Secondly and in relation to this, two ballads is one too many in a festival set in my opinion. Thirdly, the band should skip the part where they leave the stage and the audience is supposed to cheer them out once more. Again, it is a rather short festival gig and these guys were not even playing last. They could have played at least one more song if such time consuming factors were omitted.  Still, many in the audience seemed very happy about seeing Rhapsody, so I believe it was a succesful gig after all.

Some years have passed since I last saw Wolfheart, and it was nice to see Mr. Saukkonen and the guys again. Wolfheart started out with Shores of Lake Simpele and Boneyard from the new album Tyhjyys, and also played songs such as Zero Gravity, Abyss, Aeon of Cold, The Hunt and Routa Pt. Two. Guitarist Mika Lammassaari and bassist Lauri Silvonen engage in some serious headbanging in unbelievable rotation speed. I have no idea have they are able to play their instruments while doing that, so I raise my hat to their dedication to the art of banging head.

Due to some sound issues, Saukkonen’s vocals were not fully audible all the time, but the mix was otherwise quite good. Wolfheart offered a merciless set in the cold rain.  It feels like the cold weather suits the band’s winter metal pretty well.

Wintersun is one of those rare Finnish bands that I had not seen live until this day. Consequently, I had really been looking forward to this since I do listen to the band quite a great deal. This was perhaps especially interesting since Jari Mäenpää have decided to drop the guitar in the live sets so he can focus solely on the vocals.

Setlist:

  1. Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)
  2. Winter Madness
  3. Beyond the Dark Sun
  4. Starchild
  5. Sleeping Stars
  6. Sons of Winter and Stars
  7. Death and the Healing
  8. Time

It was very interesting to hear the opening song since no full songs are yet available from the upcoming album The Forest Seasons. It is difficult to form an opinion only based on this, but it does sound promising. The songs from the first self titled album work excellent live because of a good combination of really fast songs, such as Winter Madness, and slower ones such as Death and the Healing.

I will go ahead and state that lead guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari is claiming the title as the best guitarist in Finland. The guitar solos in Death and the Healing are just unreal, and it is here also important to acknowledge the new guitarist Asim Searah, who does a very good job as well. Bassist Jukka Koskinen is also impressing both in playing and in contribution to the vocals. His low growls are massive. In relation to this, Wintersun offers some fantastic singing in parts since Mäntysaari, Searah and Koskinen are all able to sing great backing vocals, which I something that now makes Wintersun quite unique. I cannot think of any other bands that can pull off such difficult vocal parts so well live. And yes, I believe that Mäenpää made the right decision to focus on the vocals, becuase he sounds really good now. His growls are very powerful and his clean voice also sounds great. His voice started to crack a little towards the end on the high clean notes, but he manages to keep it together well anyway. The cold weather may have made it more difficult as well.

Wintersun
Wintersun after their awesome set. Photo by Jussi Panula.

I would have liked to see Kai Hahto behind the drums, but he is currently injured and cannot play the summer festivals. Luckily for the band, Timo Häkkinen (Sotajumala) is quite used to play in band live since Hahto has been touring with Nightwish lately. The really fast double bass drum parts sounded slightly off at times, but this may also be due to some sound issues. Anyway, Häkkinen has a brutally difficult task to stand in for Hahto, so he is off the hook in my book.

I am one of those rare individuals who prefer the album Time I over Wintersun (at least at the moment), so I found myself very excited during the last three songs of the set. Sons of Winter and Stars is a killer track, and I experienced moments of something close to ecstasy during Time. As I already mentioned, the amazing live version of Death and the Healing that split the two Time I songs was just great. The cold rain did not bother me at all. In conclusion, Wintersun exceeded all my expectations, and I truly hope to see them soon again.

And now to something that I am very ashamed of. This time I actually skipped Insomnium, the last band on the main stage at midnight. For, this would have been the third time within a year that I write about them, and I believe this says more about me than about them. Moreover, we had a two-hour drive home ahead of us, so we made the call to escape the bad weather to come home a little earlier (read: I am getting old). But I have to admit that it hurt my fanboy heart to hear the intro while walking towards the car.

All in all, Nummirock once again managed to offer a good selection of bands, and it is always a pleasure to visit the festival. Yeah, the weather was bad on this Saturday, but it is more or less symptomatic for most of my festival visits these last years. I still enjoyed Nummirock, and I assume that I will be there next year as well.

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