Posted on by Oran

It’s the second Sold Out day of Tuska Open Air Metal festival and approaching the arena from the Metro station, there is a slew of metal fans nestled on a nearby hill.

Whether they are nursing hangovers from the night before or just getting some well needed rest before the day ahead in Suvilahti.

There’s a little more cloud in the area and we may be spared from the heat… Well, for some of the day anyway.

Strolling into the arena via the graffitti emblazoned entrance, it’s hard not to have a love for this unique festival location. It’s the embodiment of heavy metal.

Opening proceedings on the Helsinki stage is Fear of Domination, an industrial freak circus with 8 band members.

Featuring Saku who has sung with Turmion Kätilöt previously at Tuska and the extremely animated Sara on female vocals. The band is the perfect remedy for anyone needing an energy boost to kick the day into overdrive.

There’s more make up than a KISS dressing room on stage and every member has a persona that was built to be larger than life on stage. The locals hail them as gods and on today’s form it is very hard not to see why. There’s elements of Combichrist but also Minstry and even Die Krupps in their mix. They throw a sublime cover of The Bloodhound Gang’sThe Bad Touch’ which has people dancing outside the marquee boundaries. A top class opener that should have more recognition on our shores. A perfect festival band.

It’s been a few years since Lost Society pretty much left the Helsinki stage in tatters and today they have been handed the honour of opening the Radio Rock Main Stage.

Thrash can be formulaic but if it is, then it has to be done to the letter of the law. Lost Society have a no holds barred approach to their delivery. It’s frantic, it’s clinical and it’s downright rip off your shirt and lay waste to the pit  party thrash.

Samy Elbanna is a whirlwind of energy as he runs all over the stage. The sizeable crowd is hanging on his every command and within the second song he has opened up a wall of death. He’s so lost in the energy of his performance that he falls backwards over the monitors and knocks the mic to the floor.

The rest of the band duly piss themselves laughing at his expense. They throw down a cover of ‘Guerrilla Radio’ by RATM and Samy asks the crowd to squat down until it kicks in. “See, I told you they’d do it”, he tells the rest of the band in a very chuffed tone.  A fantastic decision by Tuska to offer these young thrashers an opportunity that they grasped with applomb.

Maj Karma are a local band who have been on the scene for years. They have pulled a massive crowd and they are screaming along with every word. It’s impossible to pigeonhole their style.

It’s Metal but there is Punk gallops thrown in out of nowhere. Lead singer Herra, when not singing is all over the stage swinging his mic stand and cable all over the place to the detriment of his band fellows. Metallisydän is a highlight for this reviewer with its chugging riffs that brings a wave of flailing hair in the crowd. The joy of heavy metal is, even though I haven’t a fucking clue what they are singing about it is utterly enjoyable.

Stam1na could only be described as power-thrash death metal and today following from Lost Society’s lead as another band who have moved up to the mainstage for 2019.

Another band who’s lyrical content is purely in their native tongue, they absolutely tear into the Tuska crowd. Their sound is so heavy today that even the massive gasometer in the back of the arena is quaking. Windmilling hair, crowd-pleasing riffs, fretboard rakes and chant driven choruses abound. Anna Eriksson joins them for  ‘Gaian lapsi’.  ‘Panzerkraut’ is one of the highlights in a set filled with songs with which the audience is very familiar.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm they they spew forth from the stage.

I don’t have long to see Warkings on the Inferno stage. Each band member walks out individually to rapturous screams.

Each of them as a separate persona, The Viking, The King, The Crusader and The Spartan and has a costume to match the role. This is power metal exactly how it should be. We can sit back and try to guess who is in the band, but the best thing to to is absorb the positivity being offered from 4 top class musicians.  For the 3 songs I see, I am utterly entertained by a band that clearly has much more than just a gimmick.

I will be checking out Warkings when I get home.

I must admit that the last time I saw Kvelertak in Dublin, I was underwhelmed. Today, they are an entirely different beast. Ivar Nikolaisen as settled into his role as the frontman and his ferocious persona has slotted in perfectly with the onstage energy of the rest of the band.

He’s no longer “The new singer” he is now the main man in a band that needs the frontman to grab the audience by their proverbials and demand their respect.

They open with the untouchable ‘Braune Brenn’ the throw in the silky ‘1985’ and fill the marquee the most I’ve seen it up til now at the festival. They close with a rip roaring ‘Kvelertak’ and from the happy faces spilling out of the tent after the final bow, you can tell it was great to see them at their best.

Sick Of It All are one of those bands that have cut their teeth on the stage for so many years it’s ridiculous. Their performance is pure unadulterated power and energy.

I’m getting tired just watching Pete Koller on stage. If you could attach him to the national power grid I’m certain he could fuel the United States on his own. Brother Lou spends most of the set on the edge of the stage as if he would be happier on the front barrier with the fans.

Does Helsinki like hardcore punk? Damn fucking straight it does. There’s circle pits and crowd surfing all through the set. Side stage, Tom Araya and Gary Holt watch the entire show. If that’s not an endorsement for SOIT’s legacy then I don’t know what is. Epic brutality.

Delain are back at Tuska and are one member less with Merel having played her final show at Graspop last week.

Martijn Westerholt stands behind his keyboard and orchestrates his troopers in a masterclass of feel good metal. Charlotte Wessels is a shining star and her genuine joy on stage is infectious.

Alongside her, Timo is a bouncing dynamo of enthusiasm as he lays down solos and riffs aplenty. Bassist, Otto’s deathly growls on ‘The Glory and the Scum’ are ferocious and gives Delain that final piece in their symphonic jigsaw. ‘Suckerpunch’, and ‘Masters Of Destiny’ are glorious but it will always be ‘We Are The Others’ that steals the show for this reviewer. Fabulous performance and I hope they are on the main stage on their next visit to Tuska.

Opeth are back at Tuska and the Finns are basking in their proggy goodness. Martin Mendez appears first and begins the intro to ‘Sorceress’.

Mikael walks out smiling and sporting his trademark aviator sunglasses. The sun has decided to make a concerted effort to cook Mikael in front of us all. His pale pallor slowly progresses to lobster red over the duration of their performance.

For all their technicality and musical brilliance, it’s Mikael’s between song banter that makes their shows all the more enjoyable. He jokes about Sweden being the greatest hockey nation on the planet and that Finland’s recent world cup victory was a fluke. He laughs at the vitriol thrown his way from the hockey mad Finns. He asks if we noticed the mistakes in ‘Cusp Of Eternity’.

Their set flies by and guitar solos cascade around the arena in a beautiful moment where the musical intensity matches the spectacular evening. Before closing with ‘Deliverance’, Mikael tells us it’s a long one and we’d be better off setting up tents for it. Captivating and enjoyable by possibly the most innovative metal band on the planet.

To say that Heilung are the one band that everyone is interested to see today is an understatement. I thought the marquee was packed for Kvelertak but this pagan folk outfit has drawn a huge crowd with the crowd spilling into the main arena.

Horned shamans, robed priestesses and various incarnations of devout pagans form the core of this band. Their show is a ritual as they begin in a circle, holding hands and invoking the spirit of nature and the planet. The shaman (as I am calling him) then moves to the front of the stage and lies prostrate while chanting. Horns are blown, drums are beaten and earthly sounds are sung during an hour of spellbinding mysticism.

Heilung may not be a metal band but they connect with anyone who sees them in the live environment. Their dancers take the crowd on what can only be described as a moshipt from the Middle Ages. Like nothing I have ever witnessed.

Slayer’s final show in Finland is the Saturday headliner and it’s no surprise that the arena is sold out as the Finnish audience bid adieu to the kings of extreme thrash metal.

The atmosphere is electric as the backing track of ‘Delusions of Saviour’ bellow as much as the flames in the Slayer cast iron logos nestled stage left and right. Kerry, Tom, Gary and Paul crash onto the stage with ‘Repentless’ and follow it with a majestic ‘Evil Has No Boundaries’.

Most of the time you could write the Slayer set by yourself, but for this run they’ve gone deep into their catalogue and pulled out ‘Temptation’, Born Of Fire’ and the crushing ‘Gemini’.

Tonight is a tour de force of a Slayer show. Kerry spends most of the set dishing our riffs to the right while Gary shreds and solos like his life depends on it. The fires of Hell itself are unleashed during ‘Hell Awaits’ and for the final few songs I move over to the right of the arena where a huge fan beside me hears the opening beats of ‘Raining Blood’, slaps me on the shoulder, rips his shirt off and barrels into the moshpit.

It was like the Red Sea opening as bodies flew left and right. ‘Angel Of Death’ closes the night with the audience baying for more. Slayer do shows on their terms and when they are finished, that’s it.

They stay on stage thanking the crowd for an eternity but it is Tom Araya who breaks hearts. He takes his time, goes to each section at the front and takes in the atmosphere. The fans are chanting his name. He bows and moves to the next section. It’s like he wants to individually thank every single one of us. It’s heartfelt and he sheds tears as he says farewell to the audiences who have supported him for over thirty years.

God may hate us all, but we love Slayer. To quote Tom Araya’s final onstage words in Finland; “Goodnight, Goodbye”.

Photo Gallery – Down The Barrel Photography, exclusively for © 2019.

Steve Dempsey © 2019 All Rights Reserved.