For many in Helsinki the summer doesn’t begin properly until the Midsummer bonfires at Seurasaari Open Air Museum have burned out and thousands of metal fans, from all over Europe, arrive in the capital for the country’s preeminent metal festival, Tuska. In 2016 the Tuska Open Air Metal Festival will take place from Friday July 1st to Sunday July 3rd. As in previous years, Tuska will be held in Suvilahti, an area that lends itself perfectly to music festivals. Easily accessed by tram, bus, and metro, it is also just a 20 minute stroll from the city centre.
There are a few changes this year, all of them positive. Firstly, the festival will remain open until midnight on Friday and Saturday (Sunday night we’ll have to leave shortly after 9pm, or when local heroes Children of Bodom take their final bow, whichever comes later). The other main change is that there will be an indoor tent, the Helsinki Stage, rounding out the number of stages to three. In total 45 bands are due to perform over the weekend, with almost half of those being international acts. Thirteen countries, including Finland, are represented, these are: Brazil, Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.
The action begins on Friday at 2pm when American deathgrind outfit Cattle Decapitation take to the main stage. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the band have released 7 albums to date including last year’s The Anthropocene Extinction which was their first to crack the Billboard 200. At 2.15 Frosttide‘s melodic folk metal can be heard on the Inferno stage. Formed in 2009, they have already released two albums and two EPs, and won the underground act of the year in 2011. The first band in the Helsinki tent are the Dutch symphonic metal act Delain, formed in 2002 by the former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and vocalist Charlotte Wessels. Delain have released four albums to date, with another due for release in August, so we can expect to hear some new material at Tuska. At 3.15 on the Inferno Stage, Finnish symphonic/technical death metal band Whorion will be blasting tunes from their recent album The Reign of the 7th Sector.
Swallow the Sun are on the main stage at 3.45, performing the first of three sets. Why three sets? Because they are going to play last year’s Songs from the North I,II & III in its entirety over the course of the weekend, including an acoustic set on Saturday in the Solmusali. At 4.15 fans of the Lebanese band Blaakyum will get a rare chance to enjoy their brand of thrash metal on the Inferno stage. Although they released a single as long ago as 1998, the band didn’t release their debut album until 2012, which they followed with last year’s Line of Fear. Back in the Helsinki tent at 4.50 fans of power metal can enjoy the Finnish supergroup Cain’s Offering, featuring members of iconic bands such as Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, and Wintersun. Then it’s back over to the Inferno stage to catch German sludge overlords Mantar at 5.15.
At 5.50 the main stage will be overrun by the hard-rocking monsters that make up past Eurovision winners Lordi, for what promises to be a highly entertaining show. On the Inferno stage at 6.30 you can catch Bendover, a band from Espoo that released an album back in 2005 – and that’s about as much as I know about them. At 6.50 in the Helsinki tent Norwegian band Kvelertak will be bringing their own inimitable brand of heavy metal inflected with punk ‘n’ roll, and no doubt playing lots from their 3rd album Nattesferd which was released last month. At 7.45 fans of the Japanese band Man With A Mission can catch them on the Inferno stage. MWAM are one of the most popular hard-rock/rap-metal bands in Japan, and Tuska is the start of the European leg of their world tour promoting their latest album The World’s on Fire. At 7.50 American thrash legends Testament take to the main stage. In the 30 years since they formed, they’ve released 11 studio albums and a plethora of singles, splits, EPs, compilations and live albums.
The final band to grace the Helsinki tent on Friday will be Behemoth. Hailing from Poland, Behemoth have evolved their sound over the years from clearly identifiable black to their own unique blackened death. They have released 10 albums since they burst onto the scene in 1991, including 2014’s The Satanist which won the highly coveted Album of the Year at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. At 9pm you can catch Beast in Black on the Inferno stage. Formed by Anton Kabanen after his acrimonious split with Battle Beast last year, BiB are set to release their debut album of power metal soon. Friday night’s festivities end with the German supergroup rock-operatic Avantasia, who take to the main stage at 10pm. For fans of the band, this could well be the last chance to see them in Finland as after the current Ghostlights tour there are no plans to either record or tour in the future.
Saturday’s proceedings get under way a little earlier when symphonic/melodic death metal outfit Brymir take to the main stage at 1.45. Formed in 2006, they have released two albums to date, including this year’s Slayer of Gods. At 2pm on the Inferno stage hardcore/sludge band Fuck-Ushima will be performing. Formed in 2011, the band has yet to release an album or sign with a label but they have self-released 4 EPs of unadulterated noise! At 2.15 the Helsinki stage will welcome English newcomers With The Dead. Although only formed in 2014, the members will be familiar to all doom/stoner fans as they are from Electric Wizard and Cathedral. Don’t miss this one! Back on the main stage at 2.55 Irish black metal stalwarts Primordial return to Finland with a crushing show featuring songs from a career that spans over 20 years and 8 albums. At the same time on the Inferno stage the genre-less Finnish legends Circle will be playing. With 31 albums released to date, they have to be one of the hardest working bands in the country.
At 3.55 Norwegian band Tsjuder will bring their “totally uncompromising brand of brutal, speed-addicted black metal” to the Helsinki tent. They have released five albums to date, three of those before their 2006 break-up and two since reforming in 2010. Last year’s Antiliv was as unrelenting as anything released by anyone in the last decade and a must have for everyone who likes their black to be kvlt as fuck. At 4.10 the Inferno stage welcomes the melodic metal band Crimson Sun, who have garnered some attention since their well received debut album Towards the Light was released last year. At 4.40 the main stage welcomes Turmion Kätilöt, an industrial metal/EDM band with 6 albums under their belt including last year’s highly infectious Diskovibrator. At 5.10 Mørket will be on the Inferno stage with their unusual blend of black metal, crust punk and prog metal. Formed just two years ago, their debut album Musta Luonto came in at just under 30 frantic minutes. At 5.40 the melodic death metal of Omnium Gatherum will fill the Helsinki tent. Formed 20 years ago, they have released seven albums so far, including this year’s Grey Heavens, which will feature prominently in their set list.
There’s more melodic death metal at 6.10 when Helsinki natives Embreach take to the Inferno stage. Their latest effort The World We Have Lost mixes features lots of clean vocals, and at times seems to be following in the footsteps of Opeth. At 6.25 the German technical death / progressive metal band Obscura take to the main stage. Known for their highly sophisticated music, Obscura came to prominence in 2009 with the release of their critically acclaimed second album, Cosmogenesis. Since then they’ve released another two albums, including the recent Akróasis, which is an absolute gem. At 7.10 American thrash metal purists Havok are on the Inferno stage. Their debut album Burn was released in 2009, followed by Time is Up in 2011 and Unnatural Selection in 2013. They are due to release their 4th album later this year so fans can expect to hear some new songs in the mix. One of Finland’s most popular power metal bands, Thunderstone, are in the Helsinki tent at 7.20, where they’ll be rocking out new songs from their new Apocalypse Again album, as well as old favourites.
It’s hard to believe that Fistful of Metal was released over 30 years ago, or that Scott Ian formed Anthrax 35 years ago. Since they formed in 1981 they have released eleven studio albums, five live albums, seven compilation albums, ten video albums, six extended plays, twenty-six singles and twenty-six music videos. Considered to the one of the big four of thrash metal, Anthrax are the only one from the East Coast. They’ll be on the main stage at 8.20. Which isn’t great news for Jess and the Ancient Ones, as they’ll be kicking off at 8.25 on the Inferno stage. Hailing from Kuopio, Jess etc. have built a steadfast following who adore their 60s tinged brand of psychedelic rock. Their eponymous debut in 2012 was followed by last year’s Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes, one of the best albums released last year. At 9.25 Stam1na perform in the Helsinki tent. Their music is best described as thrash with progressive elements, but however you want to describe it there’s no denying their popularity in Finland, with their last 5 albums all reaching number 1 in the Finnish charts. At 9.40 Turku’s masters of doom, Lord Vicar, perform on the Inferno stage. Formed in 2007, they have 3 albums, 3 splits, and an EP under their belt, and a devoted following. The final act of Saturday will be Ghost. A Swedish heavy metal band, Ghost have managed in the 6 years since their first EP to attract almost as many detractors as they have fans. There’s no question, they are unfathomably popular. They’ll be on the main stage at 10.
The opening band on Sunday, Block Buster, will be on the main stage at 2.10. Yet another band from Kuopio, Block Buster are hard rockers with a few EPs behind them and their first album in the works. Over on the Inferno stage at 2.25, Nuclear Omnicide are an old school thrash band with two EPs and an album already released, and a growing reputation for fierce live shows. At 2.45 the Helsinki tent welcomes Myrkur, the one-woman black metal musical project of Danish musician Amalie Bruun. Although Myrkur has existed for less than two years, the project garnered international acclaim from the moment the eponymous EP was released in 2014. This will be the first appearance of Myrkur at Tuska, and it is one of the most keenly anticipated concerts of the festival. At 3.25 the Inferno stage welcomes Mörbid Vomit, Lahti natives dedicated to the spirit of ’90s Swedish death metal. Although their sound is retro – think Bloodbath or Necrophobic – the Vomit still manage to sound fresh and exciting.
At 3.30 American metalcore veterans Hatebreed take to the main stage. One of the few metalcore bands to have been nominated for a Grammy, Hatebreed have been around for over 20 years during which time they’ve released 7 albums, including this year’s excellent The Concrete Confessional. Taking over the Inferno stage at 4.25 is that rarest of things, an all girl thrash metal band. Not only are Nervosa a female power trio, but they hail from Brazil, which just adds to their allure in Finland. Since they released their demo in 2012 they have put out two critically acclaimed albums, including this month’s Agony. At 4.30 the Helsinki tent welcomes Diablo, a melodic death / groove metal band from Kalajoki who released their first album in 2000, and another five since then. Back in the groove after a seven year hiatus, last year’s Silvër Horizon is without a doubt one the tightest metal records to come out of Finland recently. At 5.35 the main stage will be graced by the French groove metal maestros Gojira. Since their arrival in 2001 Gojira have released six albums and built a global fan base that has seen sales of their last two albums in particular match just about any other metal band playing today. For many, Gojira represent the next evolution of metal, catch them live and see what all the fuss is about.
At 5.40 Swallow The Sun return for the third installment of their 3-set Tuska show, playing the final section of their Songs from the North trilogy from last year. This piece contains more melodic and softer moments, reprieving the darkness with light keys and atmospheric soundscapes, and even including some black metal elements. At 6.40 fans of Swedish masters of melancholy Katatonia can catch them in the Helsinki tent. Over the 25 years they’ve been playing together, Katatonia have firmly established themselves as the most passionate and skilful exponents of expressing sadness through music. As the 21st century has progressed, they have become one of the most revered and cherished of all bands in the modern heavy scene. This year’s The Fall of Hearts is as good as anything they’ve released before. The final band to perform at Tuska will be Children of Bodom, who take to the main stage at 8pm. One of the best selling bands from Finland of all time, they have released three consecutive albums that debuted at number one on the Finnish album charts, and are probably the best known Finnish metal band performing internationally. Their latest album, their ninth, I Worship Chaos was released last year, and the band have promised something special for this year’s Tuska show.