TUSKA FESTIVAL Report from two women’s perspectives.
Pia S.: Hello again, beautiful Finland! After going to Tuska Festival in 2017, I came back this year with Kiki to have a good time in Helsinki and celebrate with metalheads and other beautiful people. But before we went to Suvilahti, where TUSKA takes place, we spent a day in the city walking and biking around, doing some tourist stuff, visiting Suomenlinna and having a good time. But you are not here to read our vacation stories, right? So I’ll skip them. If you follow the Metal & High Heels Instagram, you’ve probably seen some pictures of our trip anyway. And if you want to know everything about our stay in Helsinki, you can listen to the Tuska Recap Episode of our podcast or watch our video on Facebook live from Helsinki.
Kiki G.: On Thursday, June 28th, MEDEIA prepares us for TUSKA with their gig at the warm-up party. The Finnish band has an amazing energy and female power on the keyboards. When Laura Dziadulewicz sings backing vocals, the contrast to the harsh growls and screams is haunting and lovely.
June 29th – TUSKA FESTIVAL Friday:
Kiki: Our festival weekend started with a discussion panel called “Critical headbanging” that aimed to talk about the role of political and ethical topics in Metal music. I think organizer and metal scholar Toni-Matti Karjalainen (with whom Pia and Steffi had an interview last year), wanted to keep the debate general and open, but the conversation went very much into the topic of sexism in metal – which was fine for me, personally, since feminism interests me a lot and also seemed necessary, since Karjalainen stated women made only 4% of all artists performing at TUSKA 2018. Sadly this was the only one of three panels that was held in English, but it was interesting and an exciting format that other festivals should adopt, too. If you go to TUSKA, attend the panels!
“You don’t have to, but you can be political as an #artist. Some of my favorite artists are very political” says @leprousband– singer. We agree. Take a stand and use your platform to spread love and good values. ❤
— Metal & High Heels (@MetalHighHeels) 29. Juni 2018
Pia: Next we did an interview – we didn’t have as many as last year, but still, we had good conversations and you can watch them on our YouTube channel. This time, we had Mathijs Tieken from THE CHARM THE FURY and he told us the band is working on new material already. Of course, we asked some girly questions which obviously surprised him, but he answered everything. Right after that, we saw MANTAR playing the Inferno Stage, followed by an interview with them shortly after. The band is actually a duo – drummer Erinc and guitar player/singer Hanno, which looks a bit unfamiliar. Drums and microphone were placed on stage so that they could look at each other, which distanced them from the audience. But it somehow fit the whole concept of the band (which they pretend not to have – as you can hear in our interview) and also the music, which is pure, powerful and also distant. The guys hold on to their image every time and it truly is an experience to see MANTAR live.
We caught a glimpse of LEPROUS, who played TUSKA‘s Helsinki stage (the one in the tent) and this is a band I’ll definitely check out – they are already in some of my streaming playlists. But how can you watch LEPROUS, when THE CHARM THE FURY is having their gig on Inferno Stage? So we went back into the building and after just a couple of songs, we managed to enjoy them from the first row. The setlist was a good mixture of old songs from “A Shade Of My Former Self” and songs from the new(er) album “The Sick, Dumb And Happy”. No new songs revealed, but I didn’t expect that. There was a party crowd in the middle of the room who changed from moshpit to pogo to circle pit, everytime vocalist Caroline Westendorp told them to. The band has so much energy on stage that they manage to please every audience. Brilliant songs like ‘Colorblind’, ‘Down On The Ropes’, ‘The Future Need Us Not’ and ‘Weaponized’ where great choices. People were taught to sing the chorus in ‘Echoes’, which worked pretty well and made band and fans happy. Of course, every THE CHARM THE FURY concert – even a short one like this – has to end with ‘Carte Blanche’, including another singalong part.
Kiki: After seeing a great frontwoman in action, another one delighted us with her growls. ARCH ENEMY performed their ever-strong set, with which I could make no emotional connection whatsoever this time around. Much more impressed I was by BODY COUNT! On the festival lineup, the show was described as “BODY COUNT ft. ICE-T“, which made it sound like a one-time cooperation to me, who didn’t know that gangsta rapper ICE-T actually founded the band back in the 90s. Now that I know, I understand why the group’s performance was cohesive and well-rehearsed. I wondered if the heartbreaking lyrics of BODY COUNT really touch the mostly white male audience at TUSKA when ICE-T sings the many lyrics denouncing police brutality and racism. Hopefully, they do get everybody to think, more than only headbang to their gripping riffs.
The headliner makes it clear to me that the question posed by Toni-Matti Karjalainen at his afternoon-panel has only one right answer: yes! Metal music has been criticizing several aspects of society and it should definitely keep doing so.
June 30th – TUSKA FESTIVAL Saturday:
Kiki continues: We kicked off our Saturday with OMNIUM GATHERUM‘s listening session. The upcoming album makes a good first impression, with a lovely atmospheric intro, followed by a heavy yet melodic demonstration of their musical evolution. Metalcore-ish guitars, long instrumental passages scattered throughout the album, and melodies that reflect exactly what the songwriter describes in the press release: bittersweet love, melancholy, a lovely sadness in sight of the tragedies and successes of today’s world. Keep an eye out for Pia‘s full-length review of this great album.
In the afternoon, after attending the #HelsinkiPride parade, we get a look behind the scenes on a tour with TUSKA CEO Eeka Mäkynen (who also gave us an interview last year) – and we get to step onto the festival’s main stage during the great party that was MOKOMA‘s gig and get the beautiful view above.
Pia: Entering the stage – even if it’s just from a viewer’s perspective – is always impressive! I can’t imagine how awesome the TUSKA crowd looks like when a headliner like KREATOR is playing. Frontman and bassist Mille is a natural born entertainer with a unique voice, even in the kind of shouting-vocal-business that is Thrash Metal. I personally listened a lot to the “Hordes of Chaos“-album and so I was really happy KREATOR played the title track from that one. But songs like ‘Phobia’ are never missing in a setlist and even though, KREATOR are not local heroes in Finland, they had a lot of fans in the audience. Before the gig, Kiki wasn’t that thrilled to see them, but during the gig, she was headbanging all the time.
— Metal & High Heels (@MetalHighHeels) 30. Juni 2018
I saved my headbanging energy for GOJIRA! A band that I’ve listened to a lot, especially during “The Way Of All Flesh“ and “L’Enfant Sauvage”. Right after their first song(s), singer Joe Duplantier thanks their crew for putting the show together despite adversities with their gear truck and I get emotional because there are so many unsung heroes of heavy metal, like the hard-working crew of every touring band in the world. The French eco-metallers always rock their socks off on stage and even though the music is kind of brutal, it is also a very emotional band with serious topics that touch the hearts of at least some people at TUSKA. Okay, maybe a bit more, because when I took a look around in the crowd, I saw a lot of people totally lost in the music in a kind of trance.
That’s what GOJIRA can do with their music and I don’t know many bands out there with this ability! Songs like ‘Backbone’, ‘Flying Whales’ and ‘Vacuity’ were a blast, but also calmer songs like ‘Liquid Fire’ were impressive. I had the typical ‘after listening to GOJIRA‘-feeling after the gig, which is a mixture of feeling lost and seeing things clearly or from a different perspective. I think that’s what they do: put everything into perspective, showing you the brutal way that we are way too egoistic on the one hand and on the other hand we can’t keep away from things and people who do no good to us. Poor species we are, but everyone has the chance to live their own lives and change this fact for themselves.
I was looking forward to writing about the GOJIRA gig that I forgot to talk about an achievement that I made that weekend: I saw AT THE GATES live for the first time in my life. I’m not into the band that much, but they are Melodic Death Metal legends, so I was curious to see them on stage and I wasn’t disappointed! The guys still have a lot of energy and combine their brutal, heavy music with beautiful melodies perfectly.
July 1st – TUSKA FESTIVAL Sunday:
Pia continues: Damn – it’s already day 3 of the festival? Time flies when you enjoy life! So don’t forget to suck in every single moment and live on it for the next couple of weeks. Sunday started relaxed for us because we didn’t have any arrangements in the morning/middle of the day and started with a nice chat with Heta Hyttinen, a woman with countless jobs behind the scenes of TUSKA. We caught a glimpse of the TEMPLE BALLS-gig and both of us felt the urge to ask the guys for some hair care advice.
On our way to the cocktail bar, we stopped at the Helsinki Stage to see STICK TO YOUR GUNS. Even though they had played like three gigs in 24 hours or something, they rocked like hell and had some political statements for us. The songs changed between heavy with shouts and calm with clean vocals only. It’s a band with a message and the music has to fit this message, not the other way around. STICK TO YOUR GUNS is a band I always had on my check-them-out-list, but for some reason, I didn’t know they’d play TUSKA. My happy surprise of the weekend!
— Metal & High Heels (@MetalHighHeels) 1. Juli 2018
After that, Kiki and I parted ways. But have no fear, we reunited later! I watched LAURI PORRA AND THE FLYOVER ENSEMBLE, which was a big contrast to the other bands playing TUSKA. Lauri has been the STRATOVARIUS-bassist for some time, but this project was kind of an elitist jam session with only a little bit of interaction with the audience and tons of beautiful instrumental songs. This went in the direction of LONG DISTANCE CALLING and I immediately added them to my “Keeping Focus” playlist.
Kiki: Yeah, that experimental, intellectual stuff was like the Jazz of heavy music and not at all for me, much less for a festival-mood. So I left Pia to enjoy her musical “yoga for the brain” as she described it and made my way back to the Helsinki Stage to watch IHSAHN. Now, I’m not exactly an EMPEROR-fan, but Norwegian musician Ihsahn has a beautifully captivating voice and strong growls that made the performance with his namesake band an emotional one and an absolute highlight of the last day of TUSKA 2018 and a live recommendation.
Pia: I can’t say much about the EUROPE gig. I was happy to see ‘The Final Countdown’ live for once in my life and found out, that they also have some more cool songs, but not my cup of tea.
PARKWAY DRIVE started when we were chilling with some vodka next to the stage and they started with what sounded like gunshots! That totally terrified me, but during the gig, it was all good. The band also was kind of emotional but they had a really, really great show. I’ve seen a lot of pyro stuff, but I never saw the whole stage on fire like that! And the band didn’t step on it even once. When I saw the drumkit sitting in a “cage”, I knew something would happen to it, and in the second half of the set, it started turning around, so that the drummer played upside down. As I said: Impressive show! And another band that found it’s way to my playlists.
Kiki: My first time at TUSKA also becomes my first PARKWAY DRIVE-gig and I had been looking forward to that headliner. I’ve kept my eye out for the Australian band since a good friend from Ecuador told me about them years ago – and hell, do they put on a great show! PARKWAY DRIVE were literally on fire, not only with their powerful music but also with their pyro, lighting, and whole stage show. A real high note to end this great festival weekend!
Photos courtesy of TUSKA FESTIVAL by Jesse Kämäräinen, except for embedded material that belongs to the respective social media channels unless otherwise noted in the posts.