Category Archives: Finnish Festivals

Festival Report: Saturday 1.7 at Provinssi, Seinäjoki


As usual, Provinssi offered a large variety of artists and bands in various genres during three days’ time. Some of this year’s drawing cards in rock and metal were The Killers, Airbourne, The Hives, In Flames, Danzig, Children of Bodom, Sabaton, Moonsorrow and Amaranthe.

Let us begin with the bad news. It was my intention to get to the festival area in time for Moonsorrow, but I was delayed and did not get to hear more than about 20 minutes of the gig. I apologize for this inconvenience. However, I did like what I heard from the band even though I only heard a part of one song in addition to the lengthy end song Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen). In my opinion, Moonsorrow is one of few bands that can use Finnish lyrics in a decent manner. Sadly, now I do not know what songs the played.

There is something with the Viking(/black) metal that Moonsorrow plays that works really well live, but I cannot pinpoint what it is. Moonsorrow played at four o’clock this time, and I think their show would be more suitable for later in the evening when it is a little darker. On the other hand, it does not really get dark at all this time of the year as long as the weather is clear, so the difference would perhaps not be significant. I hope that I will get the chance to see a complete set from Moonsorrow soon.

Swedish Amaranthe plays frequently in Finland and I have seen them live many times although it is not really my kind of music to listen to otherwise. Anyway, they are always good live and their music is such that it is very catchy in a live context. The band seems to be very popular in Finland and therefore always attracts a large audience. Their live show is very professional. This time Amaranthe played songs such as Maximize, Boomerang, The Nexus, Amaranthine, That Song and Drop Dead Cynical.

I have heard most of these songs many times now, so it would be nice if the band could update the setlist and play some more unusal songs. I will also repeat my complaint from last weekend, since I think Amaranthe could skip the encore and just play all the songs without the late break to go off the stage. Otherwise, I enjoy seeing Amaranthe every time because they play and sing very well. Furthermore, the audience seemed to like it a great deal and the atmosphere was great during the set.   

I do not have any relation to Danzig, and it might be that I have not even heard any other songs than Dirty Black Summer and Mother before I listened through what the band played on their last gig. I did not expect much from the Americans since they got some really shitty reviews of their gig in Sweden on Thursday. However, I think this was a fairly good performance. Danzig came from the states only to play at Bråvalla in Sweden and at Provinssi, so it is possible that they were jetlagged at their first gig in Sweden. Yes, vocalist Glenn Danzig does not sing very well, but I do not think that anyone really expects that from him anymore. On the other hand he did show some energy this evening, and he was angry in the beginning of the set since something was not right with the vocal sound. He made this very clear by knocking around one of the speakers in front of him a little.

Danzig opened with SkinCarver and also played songs like Twist of Cain, Devil on Hwy 9, Godless, Last Ride and of course both Dirty Black Summer and the last song Mother. The highlight for me was How the God Kills, and many in the audience seemed to enjoy the song as well. A very annoying thing during Danzig’s set was the fact that nobody was allowed to take any pictures, not even with their phones. Apparently, Danzig has some own strange rules about this since it did not apply to any other performances. The annoying thing here was that the security guards run around to stop people from taking pictures or filming during the set. I could not see that it said anywhere that it was not allowed, so most did not know about this. This prohibition is absolutely ridiculous and absurd from Danzig’s part, and I have no idea what the purpose of it is.

In Flames. Goodness gracious, where do I start with this? I have seen the Swedish band several times these last years and I know it is a brilliant live band, but this time was just crazy. The moshpit emerged during the second song Alias, after a slower beginning with the interesting and great Wallflower from the newest album. It then went on for the rest of the songs, and turned into massive pit on command from vocalist Anders Fridén during the last kick-in-the-balls-song Take This Life.

I do not know how they do it, but In Flames’ sound is just so unbelievably massive live. I cannot think of any other band that manages to create such a crushing soundscape and it makes In Flames one of the best live bands currently around. The band included songs like Deliver Us, Where the Dead Ships Dwell, Only for the Weak and the always awesome Cloud Connected, in addition to the already mentioned ones. Fridén also brought his son onto the stage and the band played the song Here until Forever, which is dedicated to the kiddo. This was an emotional and well performed song. In conclusion, In Flames crushed and the audience went nuts.

Provinssi was a huge success this year with a total of 65 000 attendants on three days. 25 000 visited the festival on Saturday. It usually rains when I visit Provinssi, but this time the weather was fantastic, which probably contributes to the high attendance. The best thing with the festival is the audience since the atmosphere is always great and people are not afraid to express their feelings towards the music through a certain type of motion. I have a feeling that I will be there next year as well, and I look forward to know the selection of bands already.

P.S. I could not find any relevant pictures for this post. Sorry about that.

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.

Festival report: Thursday 30.6 at Provinssi, Seinäjoki


Provinssi is one of the largest festivals in Finland, and the selection of artists and bands is very versatile. The drawing card this year was Rammstein, who performed on Saturday. Other bands and artists on the festival were Biffy Clyro, Bring Me the Horizon, Action Bronson, Silvana Imam and many others. I was only present on Thursday this year, mainly to see Nightwish, Insomnium, Flogging Molly and Five Finger Death Punch. This report will be heavily textual since I have not been able to find photos that I could get permission to use. I apologize for this inconvenience.

It has been too long since I last got to see Insomnium live, so I made my way to the festival area just in time to see the band’s gig at 5:30 p.m. I was a little worried that they would not draw so much attention, but to my relief quite a great deal of people showed up for the set. Insomnium played five songs from the highly acclaimed album Above the Weeping World for the reason that it is ten years since it was released.

  1. The Primeval Dark
  2. While We Sleep
  3. Change of Heart
  4. Only One Who Waits
  5. Down With the Sun
  6. Revelation
  7. The Killjoy
  8. Devoid of Caring
  9. The Gale
  10. Mortal Share
  11. Ephemeral

I am not absolutely sure if I got the middle songs in right order since I was distracted by the deluge that struck about half way through the set. However, these were the songs the band played. I was really hoping for The Killjoy, so I am very happy that I got to hear it even though I was struggling to get into the disposable raincoat at the same time. The heavy rain caused some problems for the band as well, since their crew had to move speakers and such further onto the stage because a lot of water came down on the front of the stage. Guitarist/clean vocalist Ville Friman‘s guitar was out for most part of Devoid of Caring, and Markus Vanhala‘s for a short while towards the end of the set, probably due to the fact that everything got wet. But as professionals, the band members kept going and they did it brilliantly. For some reason I have always thought that there is something very sympathetic with Insomnium. A great bunch of lads, in other words. Vocalist/bassist Niilo Sevänen is a great front man and he sincerely thanked the audience for staying despite the torrential rain. After all, heavy rain is always really metal, which the circle pit proved. (It always rains at Provinssi when I am there, so I assume it is because of my presence. My apologies to everyone who got soaked.)

As I said, I really enjoyed the selection of songs in Insomnium’s set. The Primeval Dark is a perfect opening song, and drummer Markus Hirvonen gets to shine and set the beat. While We Sleep and Revelation from the most recent release works very well live, and Ephemeral is a song with very good drive that wraps the set up nicely. Furthermore, The Killjoy and Mortal Share from Above the Weeping World are real killer songs live. I believe Insomnium is becoming a better and better live band with time, and they showed the audience in Seinäjoki what they are made of. Now, those of you who have read my previous posts may foretell that I am something of fanboy of this band. I admit this might cloud my sense of objectivity to some extent, but I am still very sure that Insomnium’s gig was great this day.

With soaked shoes completely wet jeans from the knees down, we walked towards the main stage to see Flogging Molly. The band took some of the blame for the weather and said that they brought it with them. I have not really ever listened to these guys, but I roughly knew what kind of music they play. Flogging Molly is an Irish-American band that plays what could be described as Celtic punk. In addition to the usual rock band instruments, the seven members of the band plays instruments such as banjo, accordion and violin, which I find really refreshing.

Flogging Molly entertained the audience with an energetic and cheerful performance. The band played songs such as Drunken Lullabies, The Hand of John L. Sullivan, Saints and Sinners, Requiem for a Dying Son and Tobacco Island. At the very end of the set when the band was about to leave the stage, the sun came out and Flogging Molly decided to do one more song for us just because of that. I believe it was actually a spontaneous move, since they had already thrown most of the beer (Guinness of course) into the crowd. Singer/guitarist Dave King really opened up during the gig, which made the atmosphere very pleasant. Flogging Molly’s set was in every way merry and the songs were well executed. I think everyone felt a little Irish afterwards.

Five Finger Death Punch is a band that I do not really fancy, mostly because of the frequently quite childish lyrics and pop refrains that do not really fit with the usually quite heavy verses. But I will try to be objective here. I  cannot deny that the Americans have quite a great deal of hits (for some reason), and the audience got to hear several of them, for example Never Enough, Bad Company, Wrong Side of Heaven and Jekyll and Hide. FFDP played their songs well, but I think singer Ivan Moody sings a little slipshodly off and on, like a steam engine that is running quite well but there are some pieces of coal that are damp.

Anyway, the crowd responded really well to the music and Moody claimed that it was one of the best audiences the band has had. He actually sounded quite sincere about this, so I do not think that it was something he says all the time. Thus, the band members seemed to enjoy themselves, which of course always makes a gig more attractive for the crowd as well. The highlight of FFDP’s set was for me The Wrong Side of Heaven with guitarist/backing vocalist Jason Hook  playing the acoustic guitar, since it was the song that stack out the most. Five Finger Death Punch was quite alright in the end.

Nightwish was the headliner of this Thursday. I have seen the symphonic metallers many times, but they never seize to amaze me live. It is pretty hard to grasp how such massive and epic music can be delivered so well live. Nightwish played many songs from the newest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful, which makes sense since it is the first album with present singer Floor Jansen.

  1. Shudder Before the Beautiful
  2. Yours Is an Empty Hope
  3. Ever Dream
  4. Élan
  5. Weak Fantasy
  6. Sahara
  7. Storytime
  8. I Want My Tears Back
  9. Nemo
  10. Ghost Love Score
  11. Last Ride of the Day
  12. The Greatest Show on Earth

Firstly, the sound was just great as usual. Nightwish must have some of the best sound engineers there is, because the sound has been amazing every single time I have seen the band live. In addition, the band members rarely do any mistakes, neither with song nor instruments, so the performance is indeed quite clinical on that front. Jansen’s and bassist/singer Marco Hietala‘s voices fit together very well, and the parts where the two sing together sound marvellous.  It is like a symbiosis such as a mycorrhiza. Jansen is highly versatile, which means that she can sing both the older Tarja songs and the Anette songs without any problems whatsoever. Furthermore, I think she manages to do them to her own in a very good way. All respect to Jansen. Touring drummer Kai Hahto also needs an honourable mention since he does an impeccable job behind the drums.

I enjoyed the fact that Nightwish ended with the twenty-minute epic The Greatest Show on Earth. I would say that it is quite unusual for any band to play those kinds of lengthy songs, and unusual things are usually interesting in my opinion. I was also happy that they played Sahara although I have heard it live before, but it is a great live song and one of the band’s heavier ones overall. Nemo could perhaps be dropped from the set since I am very tired of that song. On the other hand, I understand that the band needs some of the older hits in the set that is otherwise proportionately characterized by fairly recent songs. To summarize I will say that it is almost a crime not to have experienced Nightwish live if you like metal music and live in Finland. The band is a something of a national treasure, and seeing them live should really be in the curriculum of life.

Provinssi was very successful this year. The festival set a new record for visitors on one day when 31 000 people visited the festival on Saturday. I enjoyed Thursday even though I wore shoes that were soaked for about six hours after the flood during Insomnium. My feet looked like those of a dead man when I took off my socks afterwards, but rain is metal.

Festival report: Saturday 25.6 at Nummirock, Kauhajoki


Midsummer is for many metalheads in Finland strongly associated with Nummirock. This year was special since the festival celebrated 30 years, which tells quite a great deal about its popularity and status. This was the third time I visited the festival with its beautiful scenery next to lake Nummijärvi. Nummirock is dedicated to quite extreme music such as black and death metal, but there are also always some more traditional acts at the festival. This year’s festival offered bands such as Children of Bodom, Trivium, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Mayhem, Marduk, Amorphis, Dragonforce, Wolfheart, Stratovarius and many, many more.

My visit started with A.R.G., a Finnish thrash metal band founded in 1987. The band held a long break from the middle of the 90’s until 2011, when A.R.G. did a comeback gig with its original line-up. In 2015 the band released a new record, Redemption from Refaim. The music is quite straightforward thrash comparable to bands like Slayer, and most of the songs that A.R.G. played on the Kaaos Stage this Saturday were really fast paced and featured a great deal of blastbeats. The sound was a little muddled, which is a pity because some of the interesting guitar lines was really difficult to hear properly. Still, A.R.G. delivered a decent set despite the fact that one of the guitars had to be changed in the middle of a song because of some technical problem. By the way, guitarist Jari Kelloniemi looks a lot like Dave Mustaine. Almost in an alarming manner. A.R.G. got to witness a wall of death consisting of five brave individuals, which is very much in line with the spirit of the festival as a whole.

Next up on the Inferno Stage was the Australian technical deathcore band Thy Art Is Murder. I can honestly say that deathcore is not my cup of tea, but I can understand the appeal of heavy breakdowns combined with fast parts. Still, for me it feels like creativity is lost somewhere on the way due to the fact that the songs are so similar in structure. Something I do not understand is the occasional use of pig squeal vocals. Seriously, why does anyone do that? Thy Art Is Murder performed their songs well and the singer Lochlan Watt made a really energetic appearance which the audience seemed to enjoy. Watt has recently joined the band and it is possible that he is only temporarily touring with them, but he did a good job. As a sidetrack, Watt pointed out that it is kind of funny that the festival is sponsored by the Australian beer Fosters, since he claimed that Australians do not really drink it themselves. Back to the music. The mixing was splendid here and the sound was therefore very good, which of course improves the overall impression of the performance. Thy Art Is Murder kept the circle pit going and the heads banging.

Trivium was the next band on the Green Main Stage. This was the first time I have had the opportunity to see these Americans, and they did not disappoint me. Trivium played songs such as Strife, Watch the World Burn, Silence in the Snow, Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr and  Down From The Sky. The band played quite a varied set with old songs and newer ones, and this mixture works quite well. The sound was not spot on since I had trouble to her singer/guitarist Matt Heafy‘s vocals sometimes, but it was not so bad that it would have spoiled the set. The first few songs did not really get the crowd going, but Trivium received more and more response further into the set . There is really nothing to complain about concerning Trivium’s gig, and the band made sure to keep the audience in motion all the time. All the songs are very professionally performed and In Waves works surprisingly well as the final song of the set in my opinion. Trivium ended up giving me a slight bangover on Sunday.

Trivium (Matt Heafy, Corey Beaulieu, Paolo Gregoletto, Paul Wandtke) from Orlando, FL, USA performing Heavy metal/Thrash metal at the Nummirock Metal Festival 2016 - June 25.6.2016 - Kauhajoki, Finland.
Trivium in action. Photo by Jussi Panula.

Peer Günt, founded no later than in 1976, was a band that I looked very much forward to see since I have never seen them live before. I have really only heard the band’s radio hits like Bad Boys Are Here, which they opened with now, and I don’t Wanna Be a Rock’n Roll Star and Backseat, which was the the band’s finale this evening. Peer Günt exceeded all my expectations. Great sound and great musicianship, and their rock’n roll came as a very nice variation to the rest of the line-up of bands on this Saturday. Singer/guitarist Timo Nikki is the only original member, but both the bass player Pete Pohjanniemi and drummer Sauli “Sakke” Koivula played excellently. I am always a little extra impressed with trios that sounds so good live.

Peer Günt (Timo Nikki, Pete Pohjanniemi, Sakke Koivula) from Turku, Finland performing Hard Rock at the Nummirock Metal Festival 2016 - June 25.6.2016 - Kauhajoki, Finland.
Peer Günt. Photo by Jussi Panula.

The highlight of Peer Günt’s set for me was actually a really bluesy song which I sadly do not know the name of. Nikki’s guitar playing is really awesome in my opinion, which the solo in this song showed. He occasionally also takes out the slide and uses it as it would be a part of his body. Well, it is on his finger so it is not that far from that, but still. Nikki’s voice is also up to standard, and all the songs sounded just great when these three men were on the stage. As is customary at Nummirock, there was a mosh pit during Peer Günt’s gig. I imagine that is something quite unusual for the band, but they did indeed deserve something of the kind. It was truly a pleasure to get to see these guys and I have nothing negative to say about them whatsoever.

Children of Bodom finished up this year’s Nummirock. It has been quite a while since I last saw Alexi Laiho and his men. As far as I remember, I have not been so impressed with the live sets the previous times. The execution has felt kind of sloppy and the sound has had a tendency to be somewhat blurry. This time was different. CoB played quite a good mix of fast songs and mid-tempo songs, and also old songs and newer ones. The band opened with Follow the Reaper and continued with In Your Face. After that followed songs such as Morrigan, Everytime I die, Angels Don’t Kill, I Worship Chaos and Hate Crew Deathroll. CoB really put on a show this time, and they sounded really good all the way through.

It seems like CoB has improved their live appearance quite a great deal since the last time I saw them. Pretty much everything is better now, which perhaps is needed nowadays when music does not sell like it used to. The band does indeed have the material to offer great gigs, and I am happy that they have seized that opportunity. Now the members of CoB remind us why the band is one of Finland’s most prominent both at home ground and internationally. Children of Bodom ended this year’s Nummirock in all their splendour with Downfall, and everyone lived happily ever after. Or something like that.

Nummirock Metal Festival 2016 - June 26.6.2016 - Kauhajoki, Finland.
Children of Bodom firing up. Photo by Jussi Panula.

Nummirock was a great success this year as it had had 19 500 visitors, which is the festival’s greatest number in the 21st century. Nummirock is without a doubt a very special festival and anyone who is into metal should certainly give it a try. Nummirock is the kind of festival where people may wear silly costumes or be all black metal painted, where a big man may walk past you with nothing but a bath towel around his waist and an ice cream in his hand when coming straight from the sauna, and a place where mosh pits and circle pits flourish like brushwood in a neglected meadow. Come as you are and enjoy the music and all kinds of people.

Festival report: Saturday 11.6 at South Park Festival, Tampere


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.

  1. Veterans of the Apocalypse
  2. Forevermore
  3. The Path
  4. Higher
  5. Dirt Metal
  6. Through the Pain
  7. 10.000 Ways
  8. Down With Me
  9. Let the Demons Free
  10. Tool of the Devil
  11. 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.

thunderstone
Nino Laurenne of Thunderstone. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

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.

powerwolf
Powerwolf. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

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
Diablo on the tent stage. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

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.

bullet
Bullet for My Valentine. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

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.

 

Festival report: Saturday 20.6 at Nummirock, Kauhajoki


Nummirock is a really old school type of festival, positioned at the shore of the lake Nummijärvi, pretty much in the middle of the woods. It has been around since 1987. Nummirock offered a really strong line-up this year, including bands such as Testament, Arch Enemy, Heaven Shall Burn, Amaranthe, Moonsorrow, Diablo, Eluveitie and Insomnium. However, I was only present on Saturday.

Arriving quite late, Amaranthe was the first band for the undersigned. The band seems to have a strong fan base in Finland and this also showed during this gig. Their characteristic industrial metal works well live and the singers are indeed very good. The band pointed out that their first festival gig actually took place at Nummirock in 2011 and thus seized the opportunity to thank the Finnish fans. As always, the band performed almost indecently flawless set containing songs such as “Digital World”, “Massive Addictive”, “Amaranthine” and “Drop Dead Cynical”.

Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd of Amaranthe. Photo: MarkusHelanderPhotography
Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd of Amaranthe. Photo: MarkusHelanderPhotography

The following band on the main stage was the legendary thrash metal band Testament, whose set consisted mostly of songs from their two first albums. Ruthlessly fast tempo while the singer Chuck Billy occasionally rotated the circle pit with his special mini microphone stand. The members seemed to enjoy themselves and were impressed of a guy who climbed quite high up in pine to get his hands on a gigantic guitar pick which Billy accidentally threw there. I would not have minded if Testament had played some of their newer material as well, but it was still a really good set. These guys still got what it takes to play thrash metal.

Because of desperate need for food, I missed some of Carnalation‘s songs, but I saw enough to form myself some kind of an opinion. The band plays death/grind, which actually was quite a lot better than I expected. I like that this band also have some clean singing, because it adds a balance to this type of music, which in other cases often becomes slightly tiresome in my opinion. Fast tempo mixed with heavy breakdowns makes Carnalaton quite interesting.

Next up on the Inferno Stage was Eluveitie, probably the folkiest of all folk metal bands. The Swiss band consists of no less than seven members and, in addition to the regular instruments of metal music, includes pipes (and other wind instruments), violin and the mighty hurdy gurdy. The mandola is occasionally also used. This is without a doubt a very skilled band since it all works brilliantly live. I have not listened much to Eluveitie, but many in the audience seemed to know the songs quite well and the atmosphere was jolly during the set, resulting in different types of ring games. The band played some of the songs acoustically, including “A Rose for Epona”, and also gave the audience a chance to choose the English or the Swiss German version of the song “The Call of the Mountains”. The audience cheered for the Swiss Germans version, which was really nice. I like the fact that the songs vary very much from each other, mostly because of the use of both growls of Chrigel Glanzmann and clean female vocals of Anna Murphy, occasionally in harmony with the violinist Nicole Ansperger. With Murphy smiling almost all the time, it is very hard not to enjoy this. The band also seemed to enjoy themselves and they radiate a very sympathetic impression. A great performance in every way.

Eluveitie. Photo: Jussi Panula.
Eluveitie. Photo: Jussi Panula.

This year’s final band at Nummirock was Diablo, who performed the only festival gig of the summer here after a four and half years break.

1. Symbol of Eternity
2. Read My Scars
3. Angel
4. Icon of Flesh
5. Resign from Life
6. Damien
7. Isolation
8. Trail of Kings
9. Queen of Entity
10. The Call
11. Living Dead Superstar
12. Mimic47

Encore:
13. Icaros
14. The Preacher
15. Into the Sea

The band experienced some technical difficulties throughout the whole gig, which sadly made things a little slow. Singer and guitarist Rainer Nygård was also in a very chatty mood, which consumed a little too much time in my opinion. However, the songs were crushing, although Nygård seemed to forget the lyrics at some points. Diablo played two new songs that will be featured on the upcoming album “Silvër Horizon” in the autumn. “Isolation” and “The Call” sounded very promising, so stay tuned for the new album which will be released 18th September. Since I have not heard Diablo live before, I would have liked to hear “D.O.A.”, but the setlist was satisfactory anyway. “Into the Sea” works surprisingly well live and was a massive finish to the night. Diablo is certainly back in the game, perhaps even stronger than ever.

The mighty finish of Diablo. Photo: MarkusHelanderPhotgraphy.
The mighty finish of Diablo. Photo: MarkusHelanderPhotography.

Festival report: Radio City South Park, Tampere 5-6.6


This year’s Radio City South Park festival had a considerably more international and stronger line up than last year with bands such as Def Leppard, Accept, Helloween, Extreme and Masterplan. The festival was a success as the number of visitors reached about 11 000, which is a clear improvement from 2014.

Friday

The progressive power metal band Masterplan was the opening act on the main stage and entertained the audience with a well performed set. I am not too familiar with the band, but I have heard some songs before. I usually have a problem with bands that have only one guitarist, since the live act often suffers when there is no rhythm guitar during the solos, but that did not annoy me with Masterplan. The singer Rick Altzi is known to me because he was the singer on Thunderstone’s 2009 release “Dirt Metal”, and it was interesting to see him live. After a somewhat tentative start, the band got going with a little heavier sound than the regular power metal bands.

The power metal theme continued when Stratovarius entered the main stage. As always, the band delivered a professional set including old hits like “Eagleheart”, “Black Diamond” and “Hunting High and Low”, but also “Unbreakable” and “Dragons” from the newest album “Nemesis”. I would not mind if the band would drop some of the old hits from the set, because I have heard them so many times live that it is getting hard to appreciate them anymore. Not bad in any way, but nothing sensational either.

Next up on the main stage was Accept, with one of metal’s finest bassist-guitarist duos; Peter Baltes and Wolf Hoffmann. It is always truly enjoyable to see these guys live and I often find myself smiling during their gigs. Of all the classic metal bands, Accept probably has the best live act nowadays. This time’s highlights were “Pandemic”, “Teutonic Terror” and of course the legendary “Balls to the Wall”. What I also like about their live shows is the fact that they leave out unnecessary chatting between the songs and play as many songs as they have time for instead. Top-notch and definitely the best act of the first day.

Wolf Hoffmann of Accept. Photo by Jukka Vahter
Wolf Hoffmann of Accept. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

Teräsbetoni was the following band on the tent stage and played the whole debut album “Metallitotuus” as a special ten-year anniversary. There is no denying that Jarkko Ahola is an incredible singer, and the band treated the tent audience to an entertaining set including the old hits “Taivas Lyö Tulta” and “Orjatar”. Impossible to take seriously but fun to watch.

The last band to enter the stage on Friday was Extreme. This band apparently had some hits in the 90’s, but they are pretty much unknown to me. However, people seemed to at least know the words to the song “More Than Words”. There were some good songs in the set, but it felt like they do not really have enough decent material to play a longer gig. Now there were long guitar solos to kill some time and I really do not like that. Furthermore, the songs in the end of the set sounded more like country than rock, which does not really work at this type of a festival. Other than that, Extreme performed very well, but I still think that Accept should have been the last band to play on Friday instead. Also, I kind of wanted the set to end prematurely since I was about to freeze to death. But at least it did not rain.

Saturday

Well look at that. Rain. However, I managed to stay dry the whole day, so I should not complain. I cannot understand how people wearing t-shirt and shorts survived the day as it was windy and probably no more than 12-13°C when the rain had fallen for a while. But everything is possible with alcohol, as they say (no, no one really says that).

The strangest act I saw of the whole festival was Viikate playing some Motörhead songs, in addition to their own songs. The twist here was that the band had made Finnish lyrics to the songs. They should not have done that. In fact, they should not have played Motörhead songs at all, because it did not sound good. I could barely recognize which songs were Viikate’s own and which were covers because they all sounded the same. So why play covers then? And nobody wants to hear Motörhead songs that do not at all sound like Motörhead. Strange and unnecessary.

After this it was time for the young and talented Santa Cruz on the tent stage. Even though the genre is not really my cup of tea, I think they have something good going on. The singer impresses me with his high notes which surely are difficult to manage live. The band has good energy and a cool vibe. Some of their songs tend to get a little humdrum, but that is the only thing that kind of bugs me. The audience seemed to enjoy the set which contained songs like “We Are the Ones to Fall” and “Wasted & Wounded”.

Santa Cruz. Photo by Jukka Vahter
Santa Cruz. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

Next up on the main stage was good ol’ Amorphis. The band played the first gig of the festival summer and performed very well, as usual. Amorphis is without a doubt one of Finland’s best live bands. However, I found the set of songs a little dull this time.

1. Hopeless Days
2. The Wanderer
3. Sampo
4. Silver Bride
5. The Smoke
6. Silent Waters
7. Towards and Against
8. Against Widows
9. You I Need
10. My Kantele
11. House of Sleep

I was really happy to get to hear “Towards and Against” since they have not played it many of the times I have seen them, and it is also one of my favourite songs of the band. The rest of the set had a little too much of a greatest hits feeling to it for my taste. I was surprised that they did not play any song from “Tales From the Thousand Lakes”, as they have played the whole album on some shows in the winter and will also do so at least at Tuska Open Air later this summer. However, the most shocking thing is that Tomi Joutsen has actually cut his hair shorter. Unreal.

I have seen Helloween at the exact same spot some years ago, and I did not like it much that time. This time was completely different, but I cannot put my finger on why. The new song “My God-Given Right” sounded far better live than I thought it did when I watched the video of it earlier, and it was a really good gig on the whole, with songs such as “If I Could Fly” and “I Want Out”. It annoys me that the band walked off the stage towards the end and expected to get cheered back to play a couple of more songs. This does not work at festival gigs (except for headliners), and some people got confused and started to walk away. Just play another song instead of wasting time on these kinds of things, Helloween.

Helloween still draws attention. Photo by Jukka Vahter.
Helloween still draws attention. Photo by Jukka Vahter.

Last band to enter the tent stage of this year’s festival was the Swedes in Eclipse. This was a surprisingly good performance and nice way to round off the night in the tent. I had not heard anything of these guys before, but they have some kind of a little heavier glam rock going on. Eclipse treated the tent people to an energetic and well-played set, and they probably got some new fans as well.

The headliner of South Park this year was Def Leppard. I must say that I was hit by nostalgia when they opened with “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)”. I remember that song well from my childhood, and it was probably one of the songs that got me into rock music. The nostalgia, aside, Def Leppard’s performance was excellent. Most of the songs pretty much sounded like they do when you here them on the radio. The vocal harmonies are still in great shape and really raise the performance. Even though I have never actively listened to the band, I still recognized many of the songs; “Animal”, “Love Bites”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Photograph”, to name a few. What a hit machine. Def Leppard certainly brought the festival to a close with dignity.

All in all, South Park was a really positive experience. The only thing to complain about was the placement of the portable toilets. It must have been some kind of a miss in the design since there were lines even though there were unoccupied spots. Apart from that, it was a great festival and I look forward to see what next year’s selection of bands will be like.