Dark Bombastic Evening – the 5th ritual

Dark Bombastic Evening 5

During my first visit at Dark Bombastic Evening event, in 2012, in the heart of Transylvania – the fortress of Alba Iulia, I decided that this festival has to become a yearly tradition. Mainly because of its simplicity and friendliness, two features that almost no other musical event have offered with such generosity. Both the 2012 and 2013 rituals of Dark Bombastic Evening have treated me with insane doses of good music, good mood and great company. In a location that might be the size of your backyard, if you have room for an ok sized stage, a couple of equipment boxes around it and then about 3-4 hundred people in front of it, then you have the festival area. Alba Iulia FortressA bit further away there’s some space for tents and for the bricks oven where big pots filled with local specialties are most likely to provoke an instant hunger and an unforgettable orgasm for your taste buds. But what you will surely lack in your backyard are the 300 years old fortress walls that were built in a Roman style and that add a very special charm to the whole experience.

Life at DBE5I am not sure whether to focus more on the musical events at the festival or on each of the small details that made it all so special. But starting with the latter, I think the detail that should be ranked way high is the fact that for three days you feel peaceful. There’s hardly any human behavior originating from Pandora’s box. I’ve never seen a festival where the security team is so invisible despite the flashy yellow/orange colors on their vests. And despite the fact that they rarely bother to be around the stage, the artists are much safer than if you put them in a glass box. Not to mention the overall safety feeling, so rare at public events, but here it felt like you could misplace anything of value and there’d be high chances you got it back. There’s so much respect and politeness on square meter that it’s almost surreal. People are more preoccupied with being happy and headbanging like crazy on the rhythms of some music that many of them never dared to dream to see live. Everyone has the chance to go and stuck their nose on the stage if they want. All these things are never offered by any of the bigger size events I attended, so, if it sounds unreal to you, it’s simply because you haven’t witnessed it live. Bonus: you get local food. No ‘everything tastes the same’ fast food. It’s all being mixed and packed and spread and baked in front of you. It might be a tad odd for foreigners at first, but I only heard good feedback about it. There’s a local cheese pastry, eggplant salad, gulas and can’t recall what else…As for drinks, there’s nobody ripping you off with festival prices. The area already has a bar that is functioning within a room inside the fortress walls, so the drinks menu (printed in the shape of a vinyl) is pretty complex and the beers had such a price that a Norwegian declared they are too cheap. Everything is cheap compared to a 10 EUR beer in a bar up North though, but the point I’m insisting on is that the alcohol price was not raised by 100% just because it is served at a festival. Yet, I hardly saw anyone dead drunk at the concerts. This doesn’t mean they weren’t lingering somewhere out of sight though.

Crowd at DBE5The ‘actual’ festival lasts for 3 days now (compared to last year when there were only two), but there’s some sort of a day 0, which took place on Wednesday and it offered a big fire around which people gathered to tell a story, play some guitars and watch a documentary. I missed this opening night as I only left Bucharest on Thursday morning and I drove for about 6 and a half hours to get to Alba Iulia. That meant I also missed the trip organised that morning to the Rosia Montana, a mineral rich area which is subject to a big environmental issue surrounding gold(?) mining. I recall I was so dead when we arrived at the hotel that I instantly fell asleep and woke up when the first band was supposed to begin. After eating and preparing everything, I left for the RYMA area (the name of the festival location) and I actually managed to get there in the middle of the first act, since everything seemed to have been delayed. And so the musical journey started.

The Serbians from Ana Never were the festival openers, and while the post-rock style flowing from their instruments was pretty pleasant (and it was cool to watch the drummer’s own way of living the show), I didn’t stop to pay attention for more than few minutes. But it was also because I was starting to spot familiar faces and went round hugging people and saying some hellos, shaking some hands and making new acquaintances. Another cool thing about this festival is that, by the end of the last evening, you more or less had the chance to speak to everyone in the area as everyone is a friend of a friend of a friend you already know. I even got to meet a guy who biked all the many kilometers from Bucharest to Alba Iulia, a road that forces you to cross the Carpathians. That was pretty brave.

Zero live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Up next it’s time for French melancholy performed by Zero. A very uninspired name if you want to lookup some info about the band (at least more than it’s provided on their facebook page, called, obviously, killhimplease). It was interesting to see none other than Alcest’s Niege behind the drum kit with some gigantic drum sticks and doing a rather good job. He even kept silent for the whole show, allowing the singer to present us his very pleasant harsh vocal skills. Once the French trio was done, another trio took its place on stage, this time a German one – Electric Moon -who brought with them a wave of psychadelic sounds that I initially disliked (or didn’t understand), but by the end of each song I realised I was stuck in one place staring at the stage. Even if they were only three on stage, it felt like they would be able to convince the fortress walls to break into pieces due to the explosions in their music. Hats off for their skills and I should queue as much of their stuff as possible in my playlists. The only minus from my point of view was that the band members (except the drummer, who didn’t have much of a choice) rarely faced the crowd. But then again, you must really be into your own world to produce those sounds.

Aluk Todolo live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Aluk Todolo‘s concert took place around a light-bulb hanging in the middle of the stage, light-bulb emitting a light whose intensity fluctuated according to the intensity of the guitar sounds. Overall it built an occult atmosphere to match the ‘style’ associated with their music. A music that would have been a good prelude to any malefic scene in a dark movie which is about to summon some demons. They did obsessively repeat their stuff and I couldn’t really digest the whole concert until the end. Maybe since there was a complete lack of evilness in the air and it didn’t feel right that they tried to change that. But whatever was in the air at that hour, it probably froze in agony during the last performance of the evening, another French band by the name of Dale Cooper Quartet. Their dark jazz that seriously transposed you in a Twin Peaks like set of images, wondering what giant would jump from behind the stage, was like a trip in time. Dale Cooper Quartet live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5 But a mysterious trip constantly backed up by a saxophone that was about to rip your soul apart with its sounds. I admitted the beauty of their dark music, but I sincerely was not at all in he mood for it, so I spent a lot of their concert catching up with some friends. I realise now that the music would have been perfect if me and my friends would have stayed in some big red armchairs with glasses of whiskeys in a hand and a nicely flavored cigar in the other. Those would have been some serious talks.

Alba Iulia Fortress gate

Friday started rather early with the beloved sounds of construction workers moving iron bars and starting cars whose engines make more noise than all the drummers at the festival. But that at least allowed for an early breakfast and another sleep reprise as I had difficulties being alive at 9AM. Later on I took a trip with my mum and we crossed through the main alley of the fortress, took photos, went further on to a big street full of outdoors bars, had lunch and a lemonade, then off again to to festival area. The second day of the festival was baptised ‘experimental evening’ (the previous one was ‘instrumental evening’). I admit I love experiments. I fell in love with a lot of the ones from last year, and, by the end of the evening, new passions emerged. The first one was in the shape of three pretty Swedish ladies by the name of Promise and the Monster. Promise and the Monster live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Three heavenly voices supporting eachother in beautiful harmony, surrounded by a bunch of microphones in order to capture the soft sounds of the acoustic guitars, of the clapping and of the various types of bells. The girls convinced almost everyone to sit on the grass and let them lead their dreams under the hot afternoon sun, giving everything a hippie like feeling. It was the kind of sound that, whatever dictionary you use, you end up picking the word ‘beautiful’ to describe it.

Sieben live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Once the Swedes received their dose of applauses and left the stage, one elegant man and his violin took over. Apparently he was called Sieben. Apparently he’s been around for a while and to my biggest shame I never heard his music before. I was seriously mind blown after a couple of seconds. I think one of the things I love most about live concerts is when musicians put passion into what they do. This guy put his own passion, transmitted it to you, made you feel passionate about his performance and then fed on your passion, only to return it to you in this vicious circle. He would wave his bow out in the air like crazy while he’d madly sing into the microphone. He would dance around with the violin in order to reach all his pedals and buttons used to record small pieces that he would loop on the background in order to build a rhythm section for each song. He would sing (and what a lovely voice) and scream and whisper into the violin microphone in order to obtain the background choirs of each song. And he would talk to us so nicely in between songs and keep us entertained. He would even play a Joy Division cover. He was simply amazing and, even if I seen this kind of ‘live song building’ using recorded loops, I’ve never seen it done with so much passion and dedication. Hats off to Matt Howden and his talent.

Parzival live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Luckily, a friend of mine stopped beside me before the next concert and told me I’m about to see what Dark and Bombastic really meant. Else I would have probably been shocked by the Russian-Danish-German combination that goes by the name Parzival. They are described as playing ‘epic martial’, and I still have no clue what martial actually means when it comes to music, but it certainly has a military/medieval touch to it. And it sent me back to a lot of the Russian choirs and songs we had on the radio when I was little. I admit I was a tad shocked by the style of music. Especially since I associate it with about 100 people who must play together in order to pull it off. But they did it with two percussionists (wearing black masks with red towels like on top of their heads), a keyboard player, a guitarist and a vocalist. Oh, and what vocals skills that man had. He really is the definition of epic considering the deepness and the intensity of the sounds of his voice. Once again, he, alone, sounds like an entire male choir. Another mind blowing moment. Besides, I love percussion parts in music, and considering this band only had two big ass percussion sets with some cymbals attached, I was in a musical heaven.

Electric Orange live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5They were followed by another psychedelic electric band, this time Electric Orange from Germany, but I seriously couldn’t focus much on that concert, as I didn’t really figure out much of the funky decorations laid on the drum set and on the percussion set. My brain was stuck at the previous two ones and was eagerly anticipating the upcoming concert Besides, I needed food so I took a break to taste some of the local goodies. Yumm! Then I planted myself in front of the stage in order to get a good angle for the photos. To my surprise, my mum showed up at the festival area and I was really happy to finally show have her seeing me ‘in action’ with my camera. And seeing the performance of the Russians from Theodor Bastard. I learned about this band because of 2012 edition of DBE and I fell in love with their stage presence and the voice of their singer, the beautiful Yana. Even if there seemed to be some tiny issues during the soundcheck and some nerves arose on stage, by the time the show started this was professionally left aside and good mood took over from the first second. Fedor, switching between playing his body-less guitar, the percussion drum or hitting the gong, is constantly smiling and jumping around as often as the rhythm allows. One of the guys on stage is responsible to play some sort of wooden xylophone,Theodor Bastard live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5
a long wind instrument and plenty of smaller percussion elements, while Yana herself plays few different types of flutes. The whole combination of sounds is some of the freshest things I heard lately. Including the fact that when Yana’s beautiful voice stays silent, it happens we hear Fedor rapping. The crowd loves them so much that they were not allowed to leave the stage and had to perform an encore. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t be under the spell of the genuine music that didn’t really allow your body to stand still.

Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5

Right after the show, on the wall behind the stage I saw the shadow of a woman that was dancing and I went running there to take some photos. It turned out that the crazy gang of Vulture Industries together with the even crazier gang of Happy Gorilla Dance Company needed to film shadows moving on the walls. So they sat two big light sources on the grass and decided that everyone should move backwards as they’d pass between the lights and the wall. But it would have been too boring to just walk backwards. So they used their imagination. And I swear by any gods that those people don’t lack imagination. I had always liked them, but now it was another moment of that evening of falling in love with beautiful madness. Little Vader Also with the mini Darth Vader who ran around the festival area the whole day and was photographed by everyone. He also participated in the shadow dance on the walls and was a really sweet addition to the whole deal.

And also the trees live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Once the Russian spell was broken by the silence between two concerts and the shadows on the walls dance, it felt like the night was over. Even if the stage was taken over by the British post punkers from And Also the Trees. They were elegant on stage and they performed elegant music. As British as it could get. Poetic and polite, but unfortunately too calm after the cozy and pretty rhythms from before. The singer had also the kind of voice I’m deeply impressed by and, had they performed in another context, I’m sure they would have gotten more of my attention. As you can see, this little festival has almost too many goodies to offer for a mortal to digest them all. Especially when most of them are novelties to you.

Glaciation live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Saturday started so lazy that I even managed to miss the first band of the day, Heretoir. I heard their blast beats from outside the fortress walls, while passing by a wedding ceremony that tried to entertain the participants with sax and trumpet. I should have told them to come to the festival for better music. But then I realised it’s the metal evening and Romanian culture is too scared of things that are easily labeled as satanists. But that only leaves more place for the rest of us. The first act I witnessed was also from France, was called Glaciation and it contained members of the first day project, Zero, including a guest appearance of Niege from Alcest. This time on vocals. A raw style of black metal which, despite the passion and the intensity of the singer, didn’t convince me to stay around the stage for longer than I needed to take some photos. But I did come back and didn’t move too far from the front area of the stage for the duration of the next two concerts.

In Vain live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Both Norwegian bands, In Vain and Solefald. Since the bands share a lot of musicians and played right after eachother, it almost felt like the same band with two different styles. First, In Vain with their progressive sound and a fantastic skill at building songs that are so rich and varied it’s almost confusing. They have clean vocals, they have mad and mean melodic growls that demand your respect, they have riffs, In Vain live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5they have sick drumming, they have peaceful bits and ballad like sections. And despite the big differences that seem to arise even within the same song, they have a fantastic skill at building unitary pieces that in the end make perfect sense. Even if they already had two skilled singers on the stage, they felt the need to invite a third one, for one song. Of course, he is another member of Solefald.

Solefald live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Speaking of sense, there’s way less of it in the Solefald appearance. I think you need to know a bit about the band’s background and ideas in order to comprehend their show: the uniform worn by Cornelius Jakhelln at the beginning of the show; the political references in the songs (why would anyone state that the USA don’t exist?); the salmon dance combined with black metal growls; the ballad to the sun and the mythological references; the fact that the band formed many years ago in Romania, in Constanta. And the fact that before their last song, Cornelius said there’s gonna be a surprise at the end of it and we should think about our location. And they ended with a cover of Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger. That brought them some big dose of applauses. I have mixed feelings about the show. And it’s not at all tht I didn’t like it. I just didn’t know how serious to take them. When I saw them live at Inferno festival, they had a person painting mountains live as the show went on. That added a touch of seriousness. And Cornelius jumped way less from one end of the stage to another. But here, at Alba Iulia, they seemed in another dimension. Alas, it was fun to watch and I can rarely complain about people having fun (up to a certain limit). Plus, they had a certain cuteness that contributed to ignoring the wtf factor of the show.

Solefald live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5

Dog Show at Alba Iulia

Altar of Plagues live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Apparently, this cuteness was contagious as it made me leave the festival area and go on the other side of the wall (I wished it was as cold as your mind makes you think it might have been) and visited a dog show. It had a lot of sweet puppies and never seen before dog breeds, so I ended up spending most of the Altar of Plagues playing with dogs. Then I realised that someone told me it’s the band’s last show so I hurried back to catch some of it and to see how a guitar can make history by being broken to pieces in the middle of musical passion. There was also a lot of passion in the intensity of the headbangers gathered in front of the stage. Maybe if I ever come to appreciate the music of this band, I’m gonna regret not being into the right black metal mood at this last show of theirs. I was a tad melancholic at that point I guess. The dark doom of Esoteric didn’t help much with the mood at the beginning of their show as all I recorded was the slowness of the rhythm. And then, after talking to some friends about the skills needed to keep such a slow pace, I actually started appreciating the process that took place on stage. Even if the music had some sort of slow motion feeling, it was impressive that the band made you live it at a very high intensity. Esoteric live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5I didn’t figure out the magick behind this, but I certainly enjoyed trying to figure it out. As soon as they stopped singing, I installed myself in front of the stage as it was time for the main reason I came to the festival: the Turning Golem project (aka Vulture Industries together with the Happy Gorilla Dance Project). Another fast change over (I think DBE is working with the fastest stage technicians on the planet)…then darkness and some background tunes…

Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5And so the madness starts. Vulture Industries members, wearing the same blueish uniform top, enter the stage, as the singer is being accessorised with his own…chained golem that got pulled all the way to the front of the stage and had to stand there enslaved for the duration of the first song. His ‘master’ climbed on a box so that he appeared even more impressive that he usually does during a performance. The first song ended by forcing the golem to get his well paint-coated body to good use and break the bricks laid on a table on the side of the drumkit. The stage is then invaded by a person dressed in an orange suit, carrying a small video camera and a big flashlight that is annoyingly directed into everyone’s eyes while the results are filmed and played on the backdrop (in a somewhat distorted way). Once the orange alien is gone, the attention shifts towards the white robe standing on the left side of the drum kit as it slowly starts moving and points to the text projected on the backdrop. It might be that she’s showing us the lyrics to the songs, who knows. But we surely know she’s absolutely amazing on stage after she gets in the middle of it and starts dancing. For a while, she faces the crowd with her left side, depicting another golem with very dry skin. And then she turns around…and there you have a lovely lady in a white dress. DSC_2655This was such a wow effect. And she kept on doing it until the end of the song when she started trembling like jelly until she collapsed on stage. After this, she started laughing madly while following the singer around and imitating his moves. And the crowd was also asked to imitate some of his moves for the duration of the next song. Then the bricks-breaking golem decided to rebel and moved closer to the center of the stage. Then everyone made a circle and started moving around the singer (everyone means the two golems and the three other movable musicians on stage). Then the woman climbed on the bricks table and started screaming, after releasing the golem from his chains. The golem picked up the heavy chains and, after a terrific dance, he got control over his previous ‘master’ and chained him. Then the chained Bjørnar crawled to the front of the stage and performed the end of the dramatic song while stretching his arms to the crowd and showing us all the suffering and pain he’s going through. Then he collapsed on the stage and everyone else left. Then they came back. This time the guitarists had no shirts and they stood on each side of the stage while a blinking eye was projected on each of their naked backs. Then the singer stood up and delivered the last epic part of the show, while the male golem went to the side of the stage and started dancing around a barrel that was set on fire. I have no clue what happened to the woman at that point. Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5I was somewhat exhausted myself from trying to watch everything as well as taking pics of it. Then it was over and they took a low bow and gathered countless amounts of aplauses from a thrilled crowd. The magic was over. What an honor for us to be offered the chance to see it for the first time. And to actually listen to a lot of songs from the band’s upcoming album, songs that have never before been performed live. Nor heard by anyone for that matter.

The last band of the festival were the Irish doom act Mourning Beloveth. And with all the respect to everyone who loves their music, my brain could hardly understand any musical combination that would enter my ears at that point in time. I only saw golems and only heard the Vulture Industries theatrical dramatic sound. It was like trying to figure out what hit me. So I decided instead to start saying goodbyes and go towards the hotel as I would have had to wake up in some 4-5 hours to drive back to Bucharest and then to catch flights back to Oslo. It was a rather good moment to return as I witnessed some funny off-festival band moments, but I’d much rather respect people’s privacy and not say a word about them.

Short or long, this is my side of the story about Dark Bombastic Evening 5. For now, I only managed a short set of pics with Turning Golem and it can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151510092936734.1073741837.641126733&type=1
There’s plenty of photos to come and probably they will all end up on http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto
But until then, in the hope that you enjoyed what you have read, I invite you to witness at least one of the events organised by Donis Art. Especially any future editions of Dark Bombastic Evening.

In a classical style, I end my story with the biggest thanks that can be expressed on a PC screen and address them to Doru who amazes everyone with his level of energy and dedication to make everything work perfectly for everyone. The same goes to each of the people involved in making DBE a reality and to the security team who should give lessons to each security agency that works with concerts. Thumbs up. Hats off. Peace out!

A later edit: here’s a short clip with moving images from the festival, and after watching it, I feel that I should add up few more thousand words. But I’d best stop here and let you enjoy this:

Festival experience

If you ever thought that the life of a rockband is only made of drinking, playing music and then hanging out with all the naked babes around, you might wanna wake up to the reality of the current time and date. Now there’s a lot of hard work involved in those 30,40,50 or 120 minutes that your favorite act is on stage. Of course, some bands have it a lot easier when they are surrounded by a swarm of staff/crew who does most of the things for them. But below is what I experienced during a trip to Hellfest festival in France, together with a band famous enough to fill the two tents of the festival, but not famous enough to have an army of roadies to work for them.

It started Friday morning. Wake up 5AM, leave for the airport so that you are there sometime 6AM. Check in, waste time, go to the flight. Catch some sleep.
Land in Paris, Charles de Gaulle, a place that looks like you’re part of the Jetsons cartoons. Wait for luggage, meet the others, wait for the special luggages (instrument cases) together with another band who has plenty of instruments to pick up. The bag with the cymbals doesn’t arrive though so extra time is spent going to the SAS office, asking for it, getting it delivered. There goes probably half an hour if not more. Our group consists of 4 band members, the road manager, me as journalist and the sound/tech guy who actually arrived from Lisabon and he’s waiting for us outside
Once the luggage issues are solved, we exit airport, go to the car rental office, they handle in some papers and send us to the garage. We get one of the two cars delivered, start loading up some stuff in it. The big van is not ready though. We wait. They change the small car as well since it didn’t have a full tank. Big van gets delivered after lots of waiting. There goes some more hours, most of them at the expense of the nerves of the road manager who always has to go around with her printed papers and agreements and sit and talk to people to eventually get to the desired result…After we get out of the garage, there’s also an extra hour – I guess – just to circle around Paris and be on our way to Nantes.
We drive for what, 4, 5 hours? I’ve lost track of time. Reach Nantes and find the hotel we were booked by the festival. We were supposed to be 8, but we were only 7. This confuses the hell out of the girls at the reception who hardly spoke English. And this brings plenty of joy to the road manager’s patience skills. The confusion was of epic levels when we found out breakfast is not included, so then we had to pay for it for two nights. Dialogue was something like
“So, you are only seven? Does it still mean four rooms?”
“Yes, we still need for rooms. But only seven breakfasts”
“Seven breakfasts and four rooms. For two days?”
“Yes, two days”
“But then you only pay for seven breakfasts?”
“Yes”
“And three or four rooms?”
….
They calculated it wrong anyway and had to be corrected. Whatever. We finally had a place to drop our stuff in. 5 minutes later we meet at the reception.
We try to figure out the transport to the festival area, but it turns out it’s only by cab and not covered by the festival, so we end up driving there ourselves.
Luckily at that hour there was hardly any traffic. We followed the signs for Artists and eventually reach a point where a guy was guarding the way. The driver rolls the window down and when asked says ” We are Band X from Norway”. The dude is confused, looks at the printed mails, starts talking in his walkie talkie, comes back to check again the band name…Probably not too used with bands driving in by themselves. Plus we didn’t have anything but those printed mails to show who we were. It’s probably a bad idea to have the accreditation thingy be picked up after two control zones, rather than having it somewhere on the way, and then it makes the life of those control people much easier. But it was somewhat fun.
At the festival area, the manager gets our wristbands and fixes everything with a designated hostess.
Despite the fact that it was specified in the contract, it turns out that the festival ran out of shuttle buses for us for the next day. And then it again takes a while to debate and fix something. All in all, the time is somewhere past 8PM, Twisted Sister has switched places with WhiteSnake and there goes my main point of interest for that day. We get to walk inside the festival area, watch a bit of some shows, buy food, have a drink and 11:30 PM we all gather and drive back.
Next morning awaits with the French breakfast: croissants, bread slices, Nutella, Fruit Jam 1, Fruit Jam 2, Honey, Cream Cheese, Normal Cheese (luckily very non smelly) and cereals. And no meat. But except the cream cheese and regular cheese that tended to vanish really soon, everything else was a sugar bomb waiting to be spread on the bread.. I recently found out it is common for the people there to eat such things for breakfast. Oh well. Energized and in good spirit we get a (paid) shuttle to drive us to the festival. A bit more crowded on the way, but we still get there in good time, get a designated room to drop our stuff and to change and then start exploring. I think most of us actually went for a more decent food in the backstage area and then everyone went to check out the stage. Not to forget, we found a bottle of wine on the table in the room. It was a festival wine. Probably fertilised with lots of remains from the festival goers.
At festivals, there are pretty tight schedules. If you, as a band, play at 4PM, then you can start loading in at 1PM maybe, but at max 3 you need to be ready to get your shit on stage. It’s more or less that as soon as the previous band ends playing, they start packing their instruments and pedals and whatever, someone pushes out the drumkit and then the reverse process starts: the drumkit that you have set up is being pushed on the stage, banners are set up, cables are plugged, things are tested, a soundcheck is done. In case you understood that the band members are the ones who do these actions, then you’re wrong. First, there’s a stage manager guy who supervises everything. Then there’s a lot of local festival crew who helps with the drumkit (the drummer only sets up his own cymbals and adjusts everything to his size). There’s a lot of actual stage people who take care of cables and such details. And then there’s a huge amount of work from the band’s own sound/tech guy. His actual job on the stage starts from the moment the load in begins. He already has a big list of requirements from the band on how he should set up the various channels. A lot of these requirements have been sent to the festival in advance. And now his job is to talk to the local techies to see that everything is in place as per the request, and to get an overview of how stuff looks like. Then he goes around and checks the cables and all the set up. Then he runs back behind his sound board and starts doing soundcheck. And every now and then he runs back to the stage to adjust a bit of this and of that. Not to mention his focus during the concert and his big contribution to actually removing everything from stage and making sure no piece of equipment is left behind.
Once all preparations are made and each detail is taken care of, it’s time for action. Intro music, people on stage, crowd cheerings, lights, photographers in the pit, black metal, spikes, crowd surfing, and so on. For about 50 minutes.
Then you’re done, say goodbye to the fans, leave the stage, greet your mates, wipe the sweat off your face, go back on stage to pick up your stuff, put it in boxes, take some photos, pack some more and then go back to the dressing room. Then we went to the artists restaurant to use our food coupon and we can’t really complain about the quality of the food. It was funny to see that every Norwegian a the table ended up with a burger, while the rest of us had anything else but burgers. Once we turned into happy stuffed pigs, we left to watch some more of the shows from that day. It all culminated with KISS on the main stage and to my excitement I found a great spot to photograph the band for the entire duration of the show. Now I only need the time to go through those photos, hopefully before the year ends. 
We had a shuttle back to the hotel booked at 2AM. We got thrown out of our changing room at 1AM, so we spent a while in an idle state, with the legs on the guitar cases and the asses on the chairs we took outside the room. Close to 2AM we go to the main entrance/exit and one of us calls the driver. She says she’s on the way. We start waiting (or go on with it, as it was our main activity for the last hour or so). We see another Norwegian band who had been waiting for way longer and they were quite exhausted. Then we witness a lot of other bands coming out from the festival area and being picked up, but our bus is not arriving. We call again, she’s still on the way. Thank God. Which way now, it’s a mystery. A guy responsible for stuff find a shuttle bus for the other band who had been waiting for like forever. They’re jumping in instantly. He also disappoints us even more saying that he heard from shuttle bus drivers that they’d be there in 10 minutes. That happened 40 minutes ago. It looked like transport that evening was not their main success.
Eventually our white van arrives and we find out from the driver that it all got messed up due some superstars at the festivals. They even needed police escort (not sure if on their way in or out). I think after this point everyone must have felt asleep. I seriously can’t remember how I got to my hotel room. Early alarm the next day, the same sugar bomb breakfast, we check out, split in two, as a part of us have an earlier flight and they have to leave in good time. The rest of us drive back to the festival to drop a person, then we driver back to Paris for some more 4 hours or so, with stops on the way and small sightseeing moments when the driver would misunderstand the Tom tom. Deliver cars, checking, meet the others at the gate since they leave from the same area, get checked for drugs like every other metalhead who passed the security gates. Gotta love French stereotypes. Then fly to Oslo and have the whole trip ending with the discovery of the festival wine bottle that got broken into many many pieces inside a big boot. It must bring a special flavor next time those boots will be used on stage.

Tuska 2013

The below review will be official on Eternal-terror.com website. This is just a preview

Tuska 2013

My third year in a row at the outdoor metal festival in the Finnish capital only managed to add to the list of awesome memories that make me love this event so much and wish to return there every year from now on. Even before reaching the area I was way too happy seeing how the festival went down from 4 to 3 stages, thus making the schedule way more relaxed and convenient for everyone. Of course, it might also be caused by the fact that another big festival realised it might be a fair idea to set their dates at the same time as Tuska and so they stole some of the crowd that weekend, but all in all, it led to a fantastic musical experience. With only 1 minute to walk between the two main stages and two more in order to reach the indoor stage, Tuska logistics functioned rather well so that mainly everyone could enjoy any of the shows on the main stages. As it is an all age festival, the area where the alcohol selling bars are located has age restricted access, thus making it easier to avoid beer and other sticky liquids being thrown at the crowd in front of the stage. Also the price you pay for each drink includes a two Euro ‘tax’ that you get back once you return the can or the glass. So there’s rarely any throwing. Being an all age festival leads to really cool sights in front of the stage, as it’s not often you get to see 14-18 year old kids running in a mosh pit or starting a wall of death. It’s encouraging to think the metal future is in good hands.

Another thing I love about this festival is that they don’t seem to try to empty your wallet by all means. Of course, unless you plan to drink all day, but that’s another story. Strictly talking from the point of view of food and non alcoholic beverages, you have the choice of going for expensive warm food (provided you manage to figure out what’s what and are brave enough to taste it). But you can also have a sandwich for 2-3 Euros and a bottle of water for 69 cents inside the local ‘super market’ (aka a big trailer with shelves full of bottles, snacks and sandwiches. And some ice cream). Besides this, you are allowed to enter with your own plastic bottle, provided it is sealed. Inside the festival grounds you can refill it with fresh cold water, therefore you don’t really feel obliged to continuously pay insane amounts of money for everything you want to consume. At least this is the feeling I get at bigger festivals.

Being located pretty close to the city center, it makes it easy for everyone to reach the area by bus or tram or subway. Most concerts end by 10 or 11 PM and then it’s again easy to catch some mean of transportation back home after the shows, unless you wanna keep on partying at one of the many Tuska after parties in town. Me and my friends only made it to one of these shows on Saturday, but due to the state of tiredness I was in, I didn’t manage to comprehend what was happening on stage so I am not going to write anything about that concert.

Tuska’s 2013 lineup gathered a bunch of more or less famous Finnish bands (Nightwish, Stratovarius, Wintersun, Stam1na, Lama, Lost Society, Amorphis, etc) plus a bunch of cool names from abroad, a lot of them being Nuclear Blast signed acts: Bolt Thrower, King Diamond, Kreator, Ihsahn, Testament, Soilwork, Leprous. The festival also offered an EMP stand for signing sessions and it was incredible to see the size of the queue for the Nightwish one. By now, I am starting to get familiar with the guards that stay with us in the photo pit at each stage and have a good time chatting and joking with them prior to the concerts. One of them even wrote us a sign saying that due the big amount of photographers, only the first 8 are allowed in the pit if they pay 100 EUR/each and don’t come in with a lens bigger than 50mm. We were too many and overwhelmed him.

The first band of the festival is always a pleasure for me to witness live and this was no exception – Leprous, a very quickly rising Norwegian progressive band, who recently released a new album which represented most of their 25 minutes set. Initially it seemed that everything was in slow motion as the intro was a soft keyboards/drums/voice solo, but once the two guitarists and the bass player showed up, the speed lever was pushed to the max and the leprousians barely stood still. I still haven’t figured out how they do it, but I am more and more impressed each time I see them live (the amount has reached about 15 by now). With the regret that the show lasted to little, we went back to the heat and daylight and watched a bit of TesseracT, who replaced The Dillinger Escape Plan on short notice. Only saw a bit of this concert, but I recall loving the instrumental parts and wishing there’d be almost no vocals to interrupt. But I’ll surely check more of this band from now on.

It was interesting to catch the show of the Finnish disbanded death metallers Abhorrence. I didn’t know about them prior to the festival so it was rather interesting to hear the mix of Swedish classic death metal sounds with Finnish origins. On the down side, you can see the band is missing stage practice since they had their shy moments. But the performance was quickly forgotten once Wintersun took over the main stage of the festival. They are highly adored by the crowd and each cheer and raised hand combines perfectly with the insane amount of energy on stage and mixes in a rather impressive concert. Personally I never got fully caught by the band’s music, but if I get the chance to see them live, I can’t refuse it. They’re simply great and the epic metal that they compose seems to work much better when you have the audience in the picture, and not just as a sound coming from the speakers. I ran to catch a bit of Dreamtale’s show at the small stage and I was welcomed by a great mood on stage and a very good attempt at epic and melodic power metal. Riffs o plenty and high pitched vocals were a good recipe to get the place rather full and to entertain the audience.

The five Leprous members return on the secondary stage (called Inferno), this time as backing musicians for the Norwegian black metal legend, Ihsahn (former Emperor singer). Ihsahn’s musical experience is probably the main reason that he managed to compose such insane combinations of black metal parts with all sort of elements from different genres, adding some interesting standards to the world of progressive music. There’s still his classical Emperor voice in most of the songs, only with more melodic backup and a more stylish look on stage. He’s a guitar master and at times it feels that he forgets about anything else and it’s only his guitar that exists in the universe. I must add that compared to other Ihsahn shows I have seen before, this time it felt more compact all together, a sign that all the musicians have somewhat leveled up when it comes to playing live in this formation.

Back on the main stage to finally watch again the British death metal legends going by the name of Bolt Thrower. Despite the fact that they don’t seem to have any recent releases, only re-masterings of the old albums, the band enjoys a fantastic response from the crowd and by the smile on their faces it is obvious they are in for some good fun. Even the Finnish afternoon sun show its face to enjoy the gig and make the band members’ faces look very pink by the end of the concert. A concert rich in moshpits and good music and certainly a band to keep on watching live when possible.

Amorphis took over the second main stage and to my disappointment, I think I only knew the tunes from one of the songs they chose to perform that day. But then again, I have seen Amorphis many times, so maybe it’s ok that they fully change the playlist, especially when they’re on home ground. No matter how often I see this band and how good or bad the show is, it’s always a great fascination to watch the singer Tomi spinning his never-ending dreads and how much power is projected from that little man. But the fascination ended quickly as my stomach was desperately asking for food. So I left after few songs, ate a bit, and then went back to the main stage to finally witness King Diamond live. I don’t want to insult any of the King’s fans, but I believe that if you haven’t grown up with his music, it’s hard to start enjoying it now, in the era of a youtube full of cat videos and noises. But I give him the credit of a very cool show. For the first part of the concert, the front of the stage was decorated with a fence, while in the back there were stairs on each side of the drums, stairs used by the musicians to perform various solo parts and actions. The show was spiced up by a lot of characters, mainly of the female kind, all of them busy being slaughtered, giving birth, being scared, looking macabre and so on. Unfortunately, the sun was also pretty keen on the show, and it stayed with us all the way to the end. I believe that such bright light takes away at least half of the impact and the grotesque of the planned scenery that supports King Diamond’s music. But at least it helps with cool photos.

DAY 2

The fact that Tuska is such an awesome festival is highly enhanced by the great company I always have in Finland. I stay with some dear friends of mine, who always happen to host a lot of folks for the weekend and we end up having some crazy times from the moment we wake up until we leave to the concerts area. And even on the way, we ran two days in a row into another cool bunch of people that I know from other festivals in Norway. And then we encountered plenty of other crazy Finns, so each day we ended up with our own silly and funny mini parties in the festival area, making the whole experience quite unforgettable.

Musicwise, the second day of Tuska begins with Lost Society on the main stage. A lot of people in my group said we have to go and watch them and few seconds within their set I understood why. A bunch of teenagers wearing some normal tshirts and vests and caps have seriously rocked the place for 50 minutes. The style of thrash metal performed can easily stand up to big albums of its genre and it was such a pleasant surprise to hear and watch them perform. It was love at first sight and once we were done photographing, I went in the middle of the crowd to watch them and to also enjoy the crazy circle pits that formed during the show. I can only copy the intro of the band description on their facebook page and recommend anyone to check our this wonder: “17, 18, 19, 19. No, that’s not today’s lottery numbers, but the age of the band members of Finland’s most promising contemporary newcomer combo.”.

In comparison, the Danes from Black City had a very very pale show on the secondary stage and we didn’t spend much time watching them. We mainly sat and gossiped about Lost Society and then went to see Soilwork on the main stage. There’s plenty of good energy once the guys enter the stage, but I’m always fascinated by the moves of their bass player. He’s so entertaining (besides having some cool tunes coming out from the actual bass). I didn’t watch more than few songs though, as I had to run for an interview with a fantastic Finnish band called Oranssi Pazuzu. The interview finished just in time for me to catch We Bread The Butter with Butter, whom I expected to be way sillier, considering the band’s name. I was not sold to their deathcore style and to the amount of electronic elements in the music, so after I took a cool pic of the singer in the air, I went to purchase some warm food.

My plan was to eat the food during Stam1na’s show and not photograph it, but when I saw the inflatable giraffes and palm tree on stage, I decided to put the food down and go into the photo pit. Man, what a cool silly show. They sing in Finnish so the music doesn’t really stick to you (unless you speak the language), but the Hawaiian stage setting was one of the most genuine I’ve ever seen for a metal show. The singer was wearing a surf costume, the guitarists were half naked and had straw skirts, everyone made sure the hair was wet at all times and made very cool effects when headbanging, and most of all, everyone had way too much fun on stage. Such a pleasure to watch them.

Time to somewhat relax with the serious and dark black metal show from the Americans in Von. One again, the sunlight sort of took away the deep feeling of their music, but, nevertheless, it was such a pleasure to watch this band which is thought to be the first American black metal one and their history goes all the way back to 87. The deep and dark riffs worked best whenever I decided to close my eyes and just enjoy the sounds from the old days. Time for more legends on the main stage, this time from Germany and from the realms of thrash metal – Kreator. It’s not easy to decide which instrument to pay more attention to, since all musicians play them in full force and with insane speed and accuracy. The band got very good responses both on old and new materials and did a fantastic job at setting very high standards for the main act of the day, Bay Area thrashers Testament. Both bands had really awesome backdrops, inspired by their latest releases and adding up to the epicness of their performance.

It is hard to review a Testament show. The guys know their roles on stage and they know them too well, so you can probably only talk about them using superlatives. Especially if you, like me, decide to mainly look at Gene Hoglan’s performance behind the drums and wonder if he has any backup arms or legs to make it through the whole duration of the concert. A concert that feels so flawless, hence it doesn’t leave room for too many words about what happened on stage. What happened in the crowd, well now, there’s another story. Chuck Billy seriously enjoys the sight of mosh pits and walls of death, hence spending a lot of time in between songs to arrange the crowd and direct their madness in a good old thrashy style. The monitors on each side of the stage offered insane images and I’m pretty sure a lot of the kids at that concert left home with very happy memories. And maybe with some twisted ankles or so.

Prior to Testament, I also watched a bit of a Finnish punk like legendary band called Lama, but I admit it wasn’t too entertaining to watch such old men performing punk in an unknown language. So I will not comment much on that performance. I was dead tired by the end of the night and even if we went to an after party that evening, all I recall right now is the awesome feeling of laying my head down on the pillow. And the pain of waking up next day, but that’s another story. Also today has brought some cool intense shows on the indoor stage: Urfaust and Dark Buddha Rising. Both of them are really good at building up a dark atmosphere, and while Urfaust managed to do that with only a guitar and a set of drums (and that is an impressive sight considering how overwhelming the music gets), Dark Buddha Rising had a lot of members on stage (even if the main show is put up by their vocalist). There was a lot of occultism in the music of both bands and I keep wondering if this has anything to do with the smell of that thing that gets burned in the churches when the priests are going around to bless the masses.

Day 3

I decided to be very lazy on Sunday and go rather late at the festival, especially since I have no joy in watching/hearing Amaranthe’s Barbie style music. I still caught a bit of their show though, just enough to support my current opinion on the band. It was much more enjoyable to watch the Barbe-Q-Barbies, a girl-only band with pleasant appearances, listenable rock music and good mood throughout the concert. Back on the main stage, I was very impressed with Battle Beast’s performance. I knew the band with their previous singer and they have some impressive heavy metal grooves. The new singer actually lives up to the expectations and, despite her small and fragile look, she pulls off an amazing powerful voice and has a great presence to fit the music. They are very pleasant to watch and listen, I just had to do it from far away as my feet demanded that I sat down.

I stood up again to go and photograph Stratovarius. Maybe not the most exciting live show ever, but Timo Kotipelto’s vocals don’t really fail (in the power metal style) and there’s a contagious good mood on stage. Especially when you realise that the corners of the keyboards have rubber ducks on them. It is quite nostalgic to hear the keyboards intro for Black Diamond and the party in the crowd for ‘Hunting high and low’ was a joy to watch.

The main stage had only three acts today. Now that’s so relaxed and it actually allows you to enjoy everything until the end, rather than being dead tired (drunk in some cases) by the last band, which is also the 6th on the main stage and the 28th for that day and the 130th for the festival. Anyways, the main act of the day was Nightwish. A band with a recent history full of changes and controversies and who, at the moment, is performing with Floor Jansen on vocals. After watching a youtube clip of her performing with the band in the US, I instantly fell in love with the way she sang and decided I have to see them live with this lineup. And I finally got the chance.

I am not familiar with the band’s latest releases, but the old ones are pretty much the ones that introduced me to metal so there’s a lot of nostalgia in hearing those songs live. Floor’s stage presence is beyond ‘wow’. She’s got the balls it takes to lead a band with such a name and to do it perfectly on their home grounds. She is gorgeous, she’s doing crazy headbanging, she uses the few Finnish words she has learned. I am convinced most of the crowd was sold to her and the band has gained back their fans and their fame. Once you decide to release yourself from Floor’s spell, you start noticing that many other things happen on stage. Crazy cool drumming from Jukka Nevalainen, silly star shaped sun glasses worn by Marco Hietala, sick surroundings for Tuomas Holopainen’s keyboard set (a lot of huge metal pipes stuck together). There were a lot of pyro effects, plenty of projections on the backdrop, meant to fit the mood in every song. A lot of the time the band was joined on stage by Troy Donockley with his bagpipes and flutes and other unidentified instruments. I constantly ran from the front of the stage back to my friends who had their own headbanging party. I actually filmed one of these walks and you can watch it here and see how much fun the people had during the concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sscGP9ZrWPI

Lately, I rarely listen to female fronted bands. But the Nightwish experience at Tuska reminded me why I loved their music so much at the beginning and I couldn’t think of a better band to end the fantastic 2013 edition of Tuska. I’m already so looking forward for next year in Helsinki, but until then I have about 5000 photos to go through. Stay tuned for the photo galleries.Amorhips at Tuska 2013

Bolt Thrower live@Tuska 2013

Bolt Thrower live@Tuska 2013

Bolt Thrower live@Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Headbanging at Tuska 2013

Dreamtale at Tuska 2013

Dark Budda Rising at Tuska 2013

crowd05

King Diamond at Tuska 2013

Kreator at Tuska 2013

Leprous at Tuska 2013

Leprous at Tuska 2013

Lost Society at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Moshpit at Tuska 2013

Nightwish at Tuska 2013

Guards at Tuska 2013

Amorhips at Tuska 2013

Wintersun at Tuska 2013

Von at Tuska 2013

Testament at Tuska 2013

Testament at Tuska 2013

Stratovarius at Tuska 2013

Stam1na at Tuska 2013

Stam1na at Tuska 2013

Stam1na at Tuska 2013

Tuska festival 2012 – Day 3 review

Full photo gallery can be found here http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/tuska

Being organised quite close to the city center and populated areas in Helsinki, Tuska festival has a different curfew than any other I’ve seen. Friday and Saturday the ‘noise’ has to end at ten PM and Sunday at nine, making it possible for everyone to get their rest and have the chance to go home at decent times for the next working week. Thus, Sunday only leaves room for three bands on the main stage. The first of them was a Finnish act I’ve known for a long time now and I always wished I’d see live- Apocalyptica. Everyone was telling me how cool they are live, but nobody actually managed to explain how cool they really are. There’s one drummer on stage surrounded by three guys playing cellos… Way atypical for any metal concert. And the cellos are not played in a boring style by sitting on a chair and moving the bow left to right and back (except when you interpret ‘Nothing Else Matters’). But other than that the cellos are treated like some bigger guitars which need to be leaned against the ground for support. Yet, they are constantly carried around and strummed in various ways to make the show entertaining. Add some headbanging, the crowd singing famous Metallica lyrics, guest singer Tipe Johnson (even if they had less guests than I expected considering they were playing their hometown where they could have invited at least half of the people on albums), giant amounts of energy on stage culminating with one of the cello players climbing by the drum kit and hitting the cymbals himself. Well, there were a lot of small moments that added to the feeling of a very special show and to my promise that I’ll see these guys again. And again.

After Apocalyptica, a quick trip to the tent Inferno stage to watch one of the US thrash reprises of the day, performed by Ohio’s Skeletonwitch. Entertaining as far as I stayed. A lot of furious headbanging, restless guitar riffs and mad growling. I think the band was doing a brave attempt at fitting as many songs in the setlist, so that fans get the best value for the paid ticket. Nice of them, but I don’t know how well they succeeded on that heat. I left after a little while to go back to the second main stage, which brought up another band I was looking forward to seeing live: Baroness. They seemed to have started with a bit of shyness mixed with huge smiles on everyone’s face, but the impression of shyness vanished instantly once the psychotic intro ended and the band jumped into their incredibly built songs. They have a tendency to start somehow lazy, but by the end of the song the rhythm gets so intense, the riffs so mind blowing, the solos so passionately played that you feel as if you’ve taken several new unknown drugs. I guess, I never tried any, but that must be the feeling of perplexity left by such music. Besides, it’s always fantastic to watch when musicians get so involved that they crawl on the floor to play the guitar and do all sorts of mad playing, just because they got so much into the show. Despite the intense sun and the need to hide in the shades, it was hard to move too far away from the stage where they played.

More American old school thrash has made its way on the main stage once Baroness was done. This time originating from New Jersey area and going by the name Overkill. With a history of sixteen studio albums and countless live appearances, the band leaves no doubts that they love being on stage. Even if at times they raise some doubts by pointing the middle finger intensively towards the crowd or photographers, I later found out it’s not at all a sign of disrespect, but rather a local habit. The band’s latest album was released in 2012 and I think few songs from it were played as well, but the best reactions from the crowd came when hits with history were performed. I later on went to the band’s signing session, found the explanation for the often used middle finger in photos, but also noticed how the band’s vocalist takes his time to talk or take pics to everyone who comes by for an autograph. Very nice and friendly of him (and the rest of the band).

The last act on the second main stage was supposed to be also from US and perform some crazy grooves, but since their singer was imprisoned in Czech Republic few days prior to Tuska, Lamb of God were quite forced to cancel their appearance on Finnish grounds. We all wish Randy Blythe well and quick solving of the case, but meanwhile we have to enjoy the fact that music goes on. The organisers came up with a local replacement, a famous name that entertained a lot of European stages playing under the name of Finntroll. There’s great fun to be had on the rhythms of viking metal, and while the band is not the most intense on stage (out of those from the same genre), the crowd went crazy pretty fast and I admit that standing in one place was not an option during this show. Your legs gained a mind of their own and somehow started dancing. There was another act in the Tuska perimeter, yet they didn’t perform on any stage. I don’t recall if I saw them prior to Finntroll or Baroness, but I surely have to mention them. Ramin kuntopolku. A two piece band, going around with a loudspeaker and their drumkit (aka bassdrum, a snare and a hihat), setting it down on a random place, performing 15 seconds grindcore songs and starting quick small moshpits or wall of deaths. That’s what they did at Tuska at least. Outside the festival, they apparently have this kind of short concerts in all possible and impossible places. Men’s toilets, elevators, in the back of supermarket, at the gravelpit or on a bridge crossing the highway. I found this using google and I recommend you the funny lecture: http://www.tuoni.fi/metalnation/?tag=ramin-kuntopolku.

The end of 2012 edition of Tuska was marked by Ministry’s performance on the main stage. I earlier heard very small bits of their music and decided it’s not too interesting, so I had absolutely no idea who this band was and how it looked like. I noticed a rather pimped up microphone stand and pretty weird costumes in the audience, culminating with a huge dark wolf like mask which puzzled the guard and probably boiled the one who was wearing it. Yet, when the band’s singer Al Jourgensen appeared on stage, I lowered the camera and stared at the stage in a state of immense awe, only having the expression ‘WTF’ crossing my mind. If you are also in the list of people who never saw them, have a look at the photos gallery to see why. Tons of piercings and tattoos, vampire teeth and a golden front tooth, a tall magician hat… Quite an appearance overall. It sounded as if the band went through various style changes since not all the songs had the amount of industrialism that made me easily lose interest in the band. So I think I even registered decent guitar parts, but all in all the mood was easily killed by the repetitive dance like parts. Hence, when I met my friend and she suggested we head home, I gladly accepted her idea and said my final farewell to Tuska 2012. I also took the occasion to say a classical ‘I’ll be back’!

Tuska festival 2012 – Day 2 review

Full photo gallery can be found here http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/tuska

Not the easiest of mornings in the Finnish capital, yet I managed to make it by 13:30 to the festival grounds to watch the performance of the Finnish hard/heavy rock (former death metal) band Amoral, as I was going to have an interview later on that day and it would have made my life easier if I got to ‘know’ them a bit by watching them perform. I liked the show. You could see that the band had just returned from touring on other continents as they had a good energy and would always make the scene look crowded. They warmed us even more by the intensive use of pyro effects and all in all made a good impression for such a young band. I was also impressed by the vocalist’s abilities to perform songs that were obviously from the band’s ‘death’ era and then come back to sing some very nice and clean, melodic parts. Actually, upon writing these lines I realise I got to the festival in time to even catch the beginning of Anaal Nathrakh show and to get to see how their singer surprisingly emerged from the middle of the crowd and climbed through the photographers to get his place on stage. Then they started blasting their way though a very extreme and powerful mix of black and death, but with very annoying (for me) industrial parts. Not sure if the annoyance came from how the sound was right in front of the stage or simply the way those parts didn’t feel right, but they certainly made me leave before the three songs allowed for photographing.

I had no idea who Mokoma was and why they’d be on the main stage (and didn’t get the chance to check before the festival), but heck, what a nice surprise it was to discover the Finnish thrash/death legends. Another band whose verse I couldn’t understand, yet, when they are so passionately interpreted by many in the audience, they feel just about right. What it also felt right about Mokoma was the purity of their metal. They didn’t seem to bother much with fancy extreme stuff, they have nice clean-singing parts in the songs and everyone in the band would constantly headbang or move around, giving the impression of a good mood among musicians. Later on, on the other ‘main’ stage, another band was to take me by surprise. This time the Dutch band Textures and their technical mix of just about everything, a mix that manages nicely to jump from soft, melodic moments to mean and intense screams touching death metal and metalcore boundaries. You hardly have any time to get bored with a pattern, as the band already switched to something different. Besides the interesting music, they have a certain stage-appeal and it was fascinating to stand by the side of the moshpit formed in front of the stage and look at how much energy the crowd gets from the musicians on stage. And also watch the musicians jump high in the air and play the guitars in all sort of ways. Textures show was one of the absolute highlights of the day.

The mad show was followed by even more madness on the main stage, when the Brits from Napalm Death came around with their grindcore and the vocalist who seems to suffer from the most intense form of ADHD when on stage. Their show must have been the classical mix of brutal drumming, catchy riffs and insane screaming, but as I had an interview scheduled during the time they were on stage, I didn’t stay to watch much of it. But honestly, photographing Napalm Death is one of the most demanding acts for me. I probably need to revise my technique. Anyways, once I was done with the interview, I had just the right amount of time to go to the tent stage and watch Battle Beast, a Finnish heavy metal, female fronted band that I discovered at 2010 edition of Helvation Festival. Their singer, Nitte Valo, has a voice to embarrass half of the males in the genre and both her and everyone else in the band has gained a lot of stage confidence and skills at going wild on their instruments while they manage to headbang and interact with the crowd. A very pleasant surprise to see them evolving in such a short time and fingers crossed that they keep on the good path.

Once again, I had to give up some of the previous show in order to catch another highly recommended one, from the Finns in Insomnium. Their songs had a certain epicness in their intros and bridges, pretty angry growlings in the style of death metal, and despite the band’s quality show on stage, I guess the melodic death metal was feeling a bit too soft compared to the heavy metal that I just witnessed in the tent. But I give them the fact that there’s some nice catchy riffs scattered all over their songs. Once Insomnium was done, we relocated to the main stage to see live one of the bands I used to listen at the beginning of my ‘metal’ lessons – Sonata Arctica. A band that I loved so much until I saw my first bootlegs with them, moment after which I stopped listening to the band. I was very curious to see this show and to my surprise, I was not at all disappointed. Tony Kakko is a talented frontman who’s never tired to pose and make everyone feel included in the show, but most important, I think I caught him in a good day for playing live. He sounded more than decent, the songs I recalled from the older albums were not ruined by useless failed screamings, so I managed to enjoy them. And even if power metal hasn’t been at the top of my playlists lately, I’ll go back to trying out Sonata Arctica’s releases.

When I moved back to the Inferno tent to watch Swallow the sun, it was surprisingly packed, but I believe it was also because of the weather that seemed to offer more decent quantities of rain. But it could as well be because of the band, since I noticed most of the people cheering and enjoying the doom death mix played on a stage drowning in smoke and on which the band members would interpret the music by adding some ‘ritualistic’ gestures at the times when they wouldn’t play guitars or bass. The singer, same as for Barren Earth, showed once again how fantastic his vocal skills are and he easily convinced me not to go and watch Behemoth and rather stay in the tent and enjoy more of the mystery and atmosphere that the band tries to create on stage. Yet, I left before it ended since I was supposed to attend the only show of the day on the smallest stage, another Finnish surprise by the name of ‘For the Imperium’. It felt again that the band on stage didn’t bother much to stay in any musical genre. Nor did they actually bother to stay much on stage. The singer ended up in the middle of the crowd (probably starting a moshpit), the bass and guitar players kept going forward on some big monitors placed in front, yet on the sides of the stage. Probably the drummer would have moved as well if he could. I honestly have no idea when the first few songs passed. It felt like I had been there for 5 seconds, since there’s absolutely no moment to be bored at the band’s show. I also can’t recall much of what they actually sounded like (except that I felt like recognising 20 different styles), so now I have to give them some proper listens on my computer, to make up my mind.

Last band for Saturday on the main stage were the Swedes from Sabaton. While they are really cool with how they keep on moving and being happy on stage, plus they almost always have pyro effects, I really can’t watch a full Sabaton show. There’s intensity in their songs, I give them that, but there’s one annoying thing: I can’t tell the difference between songs. So, I enjoyed my photography moments, even capturing Joakim Brodén’s picking his nose for photographers, but both me and the rest of the gang was more than happy to end the day and go somewhere for a beer. And what an epic beer that was, since it somehow materialised in several bottles of cider for me, but most of all, in very painful jaws caused by stupid jokes in the range of Arnold famous quotes.

Tuska festival 2012 – Day 1 review

Full photo gallery can be found here http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/tuska

My second year at the Finnish Tuska metal festival and it strongly reinforced the fact that I should join this festival rather often as it simply is an awesome experience. From the moment you go to pick up your wristbands until you say the final goodbye to the festival grounds, it all happens with so much politeness and friendliness that it feels out of this world. It was quite surreal that most of the guards around the area would smile at you. And even more, they would stand close to the moshpits area and help people stand up in case of small accidents. I only saw one dude being a bit forcefully carried away from the crowd, given some intense instructions and then all ended with laughter. No wonder that makes the crowd relaxed as well.

Some other positive aspects include the size of the festival (somewhere around 26.000 people for the three days) which makes it really easy to relocate and move around; the fact that you are allowed with non alcoholic drinks in the area, since it gets pretty warm during the festival days and there is also a trailer transformed in a tiny supermarket where you can actually buy bottles of water, juice, sandwiches, etc. There’s, of course, a warm food area too, but it’s really great for those with low finances to avoid starving for the three days. There’s several areas where you get drinking water to refill your bottles (I can’t describe how nice it is of the organisers to do so, rather than exploiting the people’s thirst) and you get free small Cola Zero cans at any time. A somewhat small disadvantage is represented by the fact that alcoholic beverages are sold in two areas, a bit further away from the stages, hence reducing the amount of crowd in front of the stage at certain concerts. I noticed it’s hard to convince a Finn to put down his beer and go in front, as long as they have beer and can hear/see well from way back, in the beer garden. But the advantage of this system is that the festival is open to all ages and it’s fantastic to see both the teenagers enthusiasm and the little kids enjoying metal music from the shoulders of their parents.

After an evening with a mini festival in Oslo (5 bands at Fire Walk with Me event), I somehow managed to wake up at 5, catch the bus to the airport, the flight to Helsinki, be picked up at the airport by two lovely Finns (friends of my two lovely hosts) and we miraculously made it in time for the first band on the main stage, Exodus. A big help in getting there in time was the fact that the festival area is so close to public transportation and you don’t need to walk too much to get in/out. But let’s start talking music. The pure Californian thrash metal was all I needed to wake up and feel that I’m in for a good weekend. Rob Dukes&co knew how to demand the crowd to unleash some chaos, while themselves would be very intense on stage. The show brought for me a moment of personal glory, as I captured a nice picture of the vocalist in the air. Yea, the day was totally good.

As soon as Exodus ended their show, a quick run to the Inferno stage (the one in a tent) to see SuidAkrA for the first time. Also hear SuidAkrA for the first time, and I admit I enjoyed the small bit I saw. It was a relaxed and friendly death metal with a lot of folk beats that added a lot to the melodies. The reason I didn’t watch much of their show was that I wanted to catch Barren Earth on the second main stage, where actually Animals as Leaders were supposed to play, but due the fact they missed their flight, Barren Earth stepped in on short notice. I discovered them last year at a show prior to Tuska and eagerly waited for their 2012 release, The Devil’s resolve, which continued the idea of their first release, with cool death metal saturated with progressive melodic elements. Barren Earth is made up of members from bands including Kreator, Amorphis, Moonsorrow, and Swallow The Sun and they managed quite elegantly to avoid sounding like any of the mentioned ones, yet still delivering quality music. The stage energy can only be received from the guitar and bass players, as both the keyboardist and the vocalist would hardly be seen moving. One can live with that when the voice sounds as good as Mikko Kotamäki’s.

Main stage was brought back to life by a lot of good mood and power metal from Tobias Sammet and his musicians from Edguy. I used the occasion to meet some old friends and when Edguy ended, I went back to the tent for a short glimpse at the Lock Up project, with members from At the Gates, Napalm Death or ex Cradle of Filth. Exactly like SuidAkra before, it was a surprisingly relaxed feeling on stage, despite the intensity of the grind rhythms, but I guess that’s how you tell the stage experience of each band member, experience that makes it comfortable for them to play no matter the project. Back to the Hellsinki Rock Shop stage(second stage), it was time for my first encounter with the stoner/doom legends Saint Vitus. And while there is still a lot of intensity in the performance (honestly, ruined a lot of by the daylight. It’s really a concert for indoor, dark places), I understand why some people believe it’s a miracle that they’re still out there and performing after the long years of abuses. The bass player seemed about to melt in the sun, but the other guys held on and built up an atmosphere as dark as it can be at five PM in a city as North as Helsinki where the sun still shines as if it had been about noon. A fun moment in the concert was when the St. Vitus folks tried to convince the Exodus singer (I believe) to come on stage, yet the guy ran back pretty fast.

But knowing I’d see the Americans soon in Oslo in a more appropriate setting, I moved away from the sun pretty quick and ended up at the smallest of stages, Musamaailma Club Stage, located inside one of the buildings in the area where Tuska is organised. It is a stage way smaller than all others, with poorer lights and where it really gets hot, but, being the place where a lot of more underground beginners perform, it is the right place to get pleasantly surprised. Oddland, winners of Suomi Metal Star contest 2012, delivered their progressive metal for about thirty minutes and convinced me to try to hear their sound in better conditions. I remember liking some beautiful vocal parts and intense deep riffs. From the tent back to the main stage to photograph Trivium for a song or two and then get as far away from the stage as possible and eventually recall that eating is one of the daily needed activities. That’s how we discovered a place serving delicious noodles and springrolls and ended up quite well stuffed after a while.

All in good time for catching Arcturus on the tent’s Inferno stage and admire the crazy combinations within each of their melodies or laugh quite hard at the silly acting of vocalist ICS Vortex. I call their style some sort of spatial metal since I personally haven’t heard anything alike, so I consider them pretty unique and highly recommend their shows to everyone. Each band member seems to have the time of their life being on stage so you probably end up loving their performance after few minutes of watching. Unfortunately, fifteen minutes after the Norwegians started, Hatebreed was scheduled on the second stage. I loved them so much at Graspop so I ran fast to photograph some of the Hatebreed performance and try to get a glimpse at the madness in front of the stage. Yet, it didn’t seem as intense as Graspop (now this is an example when the smaller amount of crowd is a disadvantage), so I moved back to watch Arcturus. It was pretty funny seeing people getting out of the tent and trying to move like Vortex. It’s impossible for me to describe how he does it, you just need to go and see for yourself.

I believe I had used all my concert energy at Arcturus, hence, when Megadeth started their set on the main stage, I could hardly keep the camera up to photograph them. Instead I spent some time looking at how Mustaine plays guitar or Ellefson bass and I must admit, despite the fact that I’m not keen on some of the main man’s declarations, hence not finding any connection to their music, they are skilled musicians and are able to deliver very well built compositions. Once I came to an agreement with myself about this aspect, I went to meet my friends to one of the beer gardens to decide the curse of the night. From there I heard a sad statement from Mustaine saying that this was the last concert of the tour and once they go back home, some of the band members go straight to hospitals. I wish all the best to anyone going through such a bad situation.

The night ended for me with a Moonsorrow concert as a Tuska ‘afterparty’, concert held at the cool Helsinki club called Virgin Oil. Support bands were Gaf and Ghould Patrol and I had a great time cheering for these two bands, even if I didn’t understand a word of what they were talking between songs. The place got really packed during Moonsorrow though. They seem very loved and it was almost impossible to see anything on stage from all the raised arms and tall Finns around me. When I felt like I’m about to lose my breath, I went to search for a cab and try to enjoy some hours of sleep after the long first day at Tuska.

Graspop festival 2012 – Day 3 review

Photo gallery (didn’t have the DSLR with me, hence poor quality pics, but still some fun ones) here: http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/graspop
Some of the videos I filmed can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBA61B5F1CD21FA03

The final day of Graspop 2012 didn’t start too encouraging, as it was raining like crazy in Eindhoven when we left and it did so a big part of the drive to Dessel. It also kept on raining until later in the afternoon, making the tents rather crowded and hot. But, rain is afterall part of the outdoor festival life and it brought a cool bonus in the shape of a lovely full rainbow over tha main stage. We started the day by watching Mayan, a combined project with members of After forever and Epica. It was pretty catchy by the end, with beautiful combination of clean and growled vocals, backed up by intense female opera voices and a lot of instruments going crazy in all the range of progressive elements. I don’t know what the future will bring for Mayan and how easy or hard it is for them to go touring with so many people, but I’m sure happy to have seen them live. Covered in my poncho and armed with a dose of bravery I took a quick trip to the main stage to watch Sebastian Bach. I think the thingy that pulls up the backdrop was broken since it had stopped right behind the drummer and there was no band name anywhere. Sebastian Bach himself kept saying how much it sucks with all the rain (it was kinda empty in front of the stage, so maybe not the best sight for him) and both him and the band members stayed quite back since it must have been a danger of electrocuting with all the heavy rain falling in front of the stage. I want to take this opportunity to send my best regards to the idiots who bring umbrellas to festivals, when a rain poncho is way more convenient in leaving your hands free, not having to deal with the wind that messes up the umbrella in all directions. Plus, surprise, people behind you might have a chance to see the stage and not worry about their face being ripped off by the sharp parts of an umbrella.

Back to music, it was time for one of my childhood MTV memories to be witnessed live in one of the Marquees. Ugly Kid Joe. Who would have ever thought I get to see those guys few meters away from me. I think there was a lot of nostalgia in the tent at that concert and I personally cried a lot during ‘Cats in the cradle’. Besides the emotion brought by memories, the band was quite cool live, especially the woman behind the drums, and with a great mood to play. They even invited the Motörhead guitarist for one song and later on, Ugly Kid Joe’s singer joined Motörhead on stage. A cool moment of the concert was when the same singer wanted to climb the pillar on the side of the stage and got stopped by the guards, yet he apologised afterwards for being rude to them. Nice of him. One more run in the rain to the Metaldome in the hope I get to see Rival Sons live. When the band got on stage, something looked odd and then I saw on the side screens that it was actually Spoil Engine. I enjoyed the performance from the first row for a couple of songs of a music in the lines of Machine Head and a show that was on the right way to be explosive and intense, yet the crowd was rather little in that weather and at that hour. This gave me time to go back to the main stage and watch a bit of Europe. Besides being again impressed by older people who lived their dream in the rain and sung along, I found the show rather dull and lacking energy. So I stayed and sang a bit along the ‘Final Countdown’ then went back to the tents.

I joined one of my friends all the way in front to watch Gotthard. I never managed to listen much to them, but in front of the stage there was something electrifying about the music. The guys had a great presence, the crowd around me was enjoying at max by dancing and singing, I even ended up jumping for few songs while holding on to some strangers. Plus, the very emotional moment on an acoustic ballad ‘One life, one soul’ dedicated to the deceased band’s singer. I can’t put in words the intensity of that moment, both the sadness for the one(s) long gone, combined with the joy of being there at that moment and singing along the beautiful song. After this, I ran back to the Metaldome to finally see Rival Sons live. The Americans come on stage with a lot of modern yet old fashioned hard rock, spiced up with pretty blues parts, all sang with a voice that suits perfectly the mood of the late seventies-early eighties songs. Very cozy music for a Sunday afternoon, for which it’s really worth to miss the Killswitch Engage concert.

Another special moment in the Marquee was Jon Oliva’s pain. This time, my friend with knee problem took her wheel chair all the way to the front and was joined by another girl in the same state. It was nice to see the crowd staying nicely around us and understanding the situation. The concert had an awful side: it was way too loud. I am going in front at most concerts and usually can hear normally (with earplugs) but for this concert every sound of the base and drum toms was going through my body as if I was near a jet engine. Besides that, it was pretty special since Jon Oliva and his gang performed songs from ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ and ‘Doctor Butcher’, some of them never having had been played live before (‘The price you pay’ and I believe ‘White witch’). Jon Oliva is constantly making silly faces and acts every words of each lyrics with a lot of gestures, making it both dramatic and funny at the same time. His voice is impressive, especially when the sound guy makes it as loud as that afternoon.

Machine Head is yet another band I saw pretty often recently, but due the awesomeness of their latest release, the show is far by being boring. Robb Flynn’s vocals are incredibly cool. Even the sun must have enjoyed the concert since it decided to finally show up for that afternoon. I enjoyed a lot the speech when Flynn said how beautiful the crowd in front of the stage is and how much energy the band receives back from all the people singing and going wild. He received very loud applauses for that and for the fact that he encouraged people to have some beers, saying that ‘the more you drink, the less we stink’ and from that moment on, I think the mosh pits grew a bit in intensity.

Back in the tent it was time for a dark black metal show by the Polish from Behemoth. While I am aware that black metal somehow ‘demands’ a certain attitude and way of seeing things, I found myself all of a sudden surrounded by somehow colder folks. I didn’t get that impression at Dimmu Borgir for example, but now it was something different. People would cheer and headbang in the same way though, so maybe it was just me being tired and in the right mood for the music on stage. When I realised that there’s gonna be some pyro stuff, I left from the front rows as it was already too warm there anyway. So I ended up watching Gojira actually since the images of the wilderness in the crowd were more entertaining than the burned crosses. And here I have to add another complaint. Across the ‘road’ from the second Marquee, there was a Coca Cola tent. Where there were various activities with hot chicks. All good with that, but it was the most annoying thing when you were outside the tent trying to watch the concert on the screen and listen to it, since the Coca Cola staff had the techno music so loud as it would almost cover the sound from the tent.

As I inherited the camping chair from my friends who decided to leave for the day, I installed it somewhere close to the main stage to watch Motörhead. It’s a band with history and cool music, but one of the most boring shows, especially after you have already seen them X amount of times. Almost nothing new happens, except that this time they had the Ugly Kid Joe singer as guest. So actually I decided to start walking with my camera on and filming the crowd who was singing and dancing. That made the show more fun. Leaving earlier, I ended up with a good spot to watch Hatebreed. Until the moment I saw the letters COB on the backdrop, making me realise I was in the wrong tent. Meh. I still found a decent place to watch Hatebreed (close to the sound board), but I still feel stupid for waiting few minutes in the other tent where Children of Bodom were supposed to start. I even caught a bit of ‘Everytime I die’ on my way to the toilet and I noticed with surprise that they had a car front on the stage. Anyways, Hatebreed was another concert with enormous force and intensity. All the way to the back people were singing and screaming and jumping and headbanging. The vocalist encouraged bigger and bigger moshpits but he made sure to tell clearly that we all are there to have fun, so if anyone falls down you stop and lift their asses up. That’s exactly the spirit.

On the way back to the toilet, while watching the screen above the tent’s entrance, I noticed fireworks on the main stage. There were like twenty five minutes earlier than the Guns’n’roses concert was supposed to start and everyone was actually afraid they’d start at least one hour later. Yet, the screens started to show images of Axl singing so the few who noticed what happened started going towards the front. Luckily for me it was kinda empty so I got pretty close to get a good look at Axl and his musicians. He actually came on stage with three guitarists, one of them having a double necked bass/guitar. It’s hard to make up my mind on the words I can use to describe the experience. First, it was again the emotion of seeing a band that I grew up with. Even if it was the leftovers of it. I was looking forward to hear the tunes that filled the late hours at MTV for years, yet, when Axl was trying to go too high or hold a note for too long, something was wrong. Also his looks, it’s totally wrong to play such a music with a mustache and beard. And I don’t mean to be mean, it just looked odd in the context. The instrumental parts were pretty long, we caught a drum and bass solo, some of the classic tunes, but unfortunately decided to leave before the famous ballads were played. We heard that GNR came prepared to play a three hours set and by what we saw the next day, they actually did play three hours. I am happy that they actually treated the crowd with so much music, I hope Axl’s voice didn’t get even worse by the end and I have small regrets for not staying longer. But honestly, after three days of festival, the thought of a soft pillow is too damn tempting.

That’s how Graspop 2012 ended for me, on the tunes of ‘You could be mine’ and with a bunch of crazy, silly, funny moments together with my lovely friends and with the happy thought that there’s still plenty of good music out there, music that brings people together from all over the world and puts a smile on their face. If the chance comes by for you to go to Graspop, I’d say don’t hesitate and give it a try. And buy yourself some warm waffles and rosé beer.

Graspop festival 2012 – Day 2 review

Photo gallery (didn’t have the DSLR with me, hence poor quality pics, but still some fun ones) here: http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/graspop
Some of the videos I filmed can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBA61B5F1CD21FA03

Saturday started with good weather and fresh Dutch stroopwafels which taste fantastic when warm. Highly recommended. Another driver from Eindhoven to Dessel and we’re just in time to attend Heidevolk’s concert in the Metaldome. I only knew a song from Heidvolk, but it was enough to make me want to see them live since they sing about being Vulgaris Magistralis and riding on a mastodon. The impression wasn’t far from the reality of the concert. It was a fun experience as everyone around me knew the lyrics (sung in Dutch) and danced to the songs. Or crowdsurfed when appropriate. It really was an awesome day starter, even if I have small regrets for missing Russell Allen on the main stage as he performed with Adrenaline Mob. Alestorm and While she Sleeps were two gigs during which we decided to fix personal stuff, such as food hunting and beer tasting. And finding a good spot to see a bit of Primal Fear. I didn’t occupy the spot for too long though as I didn’t enjoy too much of the high pitched parts of the songs. Plus, it was such a lovely weather outside, neither too warm nor too cold (the clouds were moving so fast that you never had time to freeze nor to cook). It was quite enjoyable to sit on the grass and look at the people passing by in the silliest of outfits, but being happy altogether. This is the best thing about metal festivals. I always encounter happy people. Quite drunk as well, but overall there’s a feeling of genuine happiness that I hardly find anywhere else.

Back to music, time for Death Angel in one of the tents. I really liked their headlining show at Inferno festival in 2011 and was looking forward to see them again. It lacked a bit of the fascination of them playing the main stage of a festival, but they still put up a good portion of thrash with the classical guitar solos played wonderfully by Rob Cavestany. I took a short trip at the end of the gigs to see what The Spudmonster is about and, as it would have been no time to enter the tent and get to a point where I can see the stage (I’m 1.60!!), I had a good laugh watching on the screen how the band invited the crowd on stage and the security guys had no idea how to handle the situation. But it all seemed to end well and in good terms.

After this, the main stage was occupied by one of the bands that many people grew up with and, back in the days, I would never thought I’d get to see such a name live. Thin Lizzy. Although, by now, the variety of music out there might leave them way behind when it comes to songs complexity, Thin Lizzy were surely innovators in a lot of areas and many of today bands own them a little bit of inspiration. Live, I didn’t find it a very outstanding performance, but it was way too cool to see people pass their fifties in front of the stage dancing and jumping around and even having tears in their eyes when the band performed some slower songs. That was fantastic. After Thin Lizzy, I joined my friend who really wanted to see Eluveitie, folk metallers from Switzerland. The band does have what it takes to make a cool live show. They do have stage presence, various decorations around the microphones, plenty of instruments to spice up the folk rhythms and most important energy to pass along to the crowd who is continuously on the move. But I guess this just wasn’t my best weekend for folk metal since I felt like leaving after few songs to check out a bit of All Shall Perish. I only got to see it from the point when the singer directed a wall of death and it seemed like hell broke loose in the tent after that moment. And I noticed some folks getting out of the tent without tshirts and soaked in sweat. They must have had a good time inside.

Trivium was a good moment to go around the metal market of the festival where the variety of tshirts with funny texts grows bigger each year. Happy I didn’t bring the card with me I left the place only with some pics on my camera and with the same amount of Euros in my pockets. They do have some nice stuff there, I admit, but for reasons unrelated and uninteresting for the reader, I had to stay away from stuff. So I went back to the cool stuff that we all went to Graspop for: music. This time more old school thrash metal from the eighties – Exodus. I think that if they kept on playing, they would have actually brought the tent down. The crowd was mad and didn’t stop jumping or moshing for the entire performance. Not to mention singing and/or screaming along the lyrics. Even the singer, Rob Dukes, admitted this is one of the best (if not the best, I don’t remember exactly) shows of his life. He told the crowd that they were completely insane, which probably made them willing to go even more crazy in the pits. It must be quite special to be up there on the stage and see thousands of people reacting like that to your music. At the end of the show, the band got a little kid from the audience on stage and he got to play one of the guitars. That was also an awesome gesture which probably will leave great memories to the kid and his parents.

Megadeth was another moment of relaxation for the day. While I respect their influence in the world of metal, I completely lost respect for their main man after starting to read more and more of his idiotic declarations against certain parts of population. Especially when you sing a song saying you love all the world. From where we stood, the wind would hardly allow us to hear the vocal parts, so we had some sort of instrumental Megadeth on the background, until we relocated to the tent to see a bit of Fear Factory. We saw even less than expected since there were some problems that delayed the start with about ten minutes, then, after one song, the power in the PAs went off and it was silence in the tent while I was going out. So I can’t comment much on this show. Afterwards I met my friends in the Metaldome where, with thanks to the Leprous guys, we got a nice spot to watch their show. And what a show the guys put together. I’ve seen them live countless time and they haven’t yet ceased to impress me with the amount of energy they put in each note they sing. I also like how their songs seem to always change a bit live (or maybe I just notice different things that I didn’t pay attention to earlier). The Leprous guys performed some songs of their own and after that they were join on stage by the Emperor legend Ihsahn, who just released a new fantastic album Eremita and performed a few songs from it, combined with older classics, all of them performed incredibly skillful. The biggest disadvantage of the show was that it was scheduled at the same time as Twisted Sister, a band I so wanted to see live again. Hence, with big regrets, I had to run after two Ihsahn songs, but it was just in time to catch ‘Burn in Hell’ and the mighty ‘I wanna rock’, which the band manages to play without showing any sign of boredom after so many years of performing it live. It’s always cool and entertaining. Dee Schneiders is a magician when it comes to making the crowd laugh and scream with all their strength that they want to rock. As far as I’m concerned, they could have just went on with it for half an hour more and it would have still been cool.

I went on rocking on the meaner symphonic beats of Dimmu Borgir but after seeing their show with orchestra and choir in Oslo, it’s no longer as majestic to watch them live. They’re skilled musicians with experience, but the intensity was not the same. Plus, everyone was talking that day about Pennywise and I felt like I should go and watch some of it in the other tent. I am ashamed of not knowing Pennywise from before since what I saw in the second Marquee was fantastic. Almost everyone was dancing and singing along and it was way overwhelming to be in that crowd. And too hot as well, so I went outside to watch from the screen (together with hundreds of folks who would still sing and dance) and I got a lot of goosebumps when the band played their own version of ‘Stand by me’ and their ‘Bro Hymn’ when everyone would sing along the ‘ooooohs’. It was really fantastic and now I can only hope I get the chance to see them again, this time better prepared.

The surprise headliner of the day was Limp Bizkit. Everyone I spoke with wondered why are they on a metal festival schedule, yet I was surprised by the number of people going towards the main stage when the concert started. A lot of them knew the lyrics to the songs and started dancing and ‘hip hop’ing with each tune. I didn’t bother to go too much forward as I didn’t find the music especially appealing. The light show seemed intense from the distance and Fred Durst enjoyed being on stage. So, despite the fact that I didn’t stay for the concert, I am glad if people enjoyed it and had a good time during the lesser metal moment of the day.

Graspop Festival 2012 – Day 1 Review

Photo gallery (didn’t have the DSLR with me, hence poor quality pics, but still some fun ones) here: http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/graspop
Some of the videos I filmed can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBA61B5F1CD21FA03

I’d still wished I had a wider festival experience to be able to compare Graspop to other events, but compared to what I see on various social medias about festivals like Hellfest or Wacken, I believe that Graspop is still one cool relaxed festival. I mainly mean that from the point of view of amount of time needed to relocate from one stage to another, amount of time spent in queues at drinks (close to 30 seconds on average for me), the tokens selling points, the entrance checkins (even if only at the beginning of the day) or at toilets. Then, there’s the cleanliness of toilets which hardly gave me reasons to complain, the running order that, having ‘only’ four stages, only forced you to choose between two bands at a time (I really don’t want to try a festival with six stages). Besides all these details that give a lot of bonus points to the organisators, I also had the chance to witness how the disabled people are handled, due the fact that one of my friends had a knee injury that didn’t allow her to stand up for a long time. Again, we came across quite decent services with friendly and helpful people and I got really touched by noticing the conditions of some of the folks stuck in the wheelchairs and attached to breathing devices, yet willing to come to the festival. One final bonus goes to the guards by the stages. I hardly saw such good mood among them and I hope this will go on like this. On the smallest stage, Metaldome, they got themselves a little plush animal that they decorated differently each time I went there then kept taking pics with it. And when they were not busy with that, there was a lot of laughter and jokes made with the people in the crowd. Thumbs up for that!

I won’t go through any festival history since the web is full of that or you can just go to the festival’s webpage and read more there. Let’s go straight to what happened during the three days of festival at Dessel. For us, it all started with Godsmack on the main stage and their groovy hard rock that has some lovely drumming parts and a pleasant voice to match those grooves. It felt like they had quite plenty of jamming in their show as well and by the end of their time on stage, the crowd seemed warmed up enough for the concerts to come that weekend. But the actual awakening for me was during Unearth’s metalcore show that unleashed moshpits and a lot of angry fists up in the air. The feeling of ‘I’m at a metal festival’ was completely installed by the time I left the tent where Unearth played and went to the other tent to catch a bit of Ensiferum and their folkish death metal tunes. It’s the kind of music that seems to demand you hold some drinking device in your hands and keep emptying it, and as I was not in the mood for that, I started walking towards the main stage.

Zack Wylde and his Black Label Society took over for about fifty minutes and entertained the crowd with their classic songs, all spiced up with plenty of guitar solos. Including a neverending one by Zack at some moment, a solo that is way too long to stay cool all the way to the end. Yet, everyone in the band has an obvious stage experience and know how to unleash their fury at each intense part of the melody and keep the crowd’s attention at all times. Once Zack’s gang is done guitaring, it’s time to increase the tempo on some thrash/speed metal rhythms from Arizona, as interpreted by Sacred Reich. I don’t really know how often they got to play after their reunion in 2007, but certainly the crowd was happy to see them. It was a nice moment when the singer asked the crowd to lift their hands in the air for peace and friendship. I left after a couple of songs though to start discovering the food choices and practicing my understanding of Dutch language. On a side note, my favorite acquisitions were the Belgian Waffles. Mmm.

Full happy belly and time to watch another of the day’s legends on main stage: Slash. As usual, he brings Myles Kennedy on vocals and as far as I’m concerned they can interpret the whole GNR discography since it sounds even better than the original at times. I simply like how Myles’ voice suits the songs and I’m pretty sure almost everyone is sold to him when the shows ends on the beats of ‘Paradise City’. After being impressed few years ago by the live appearance of DevilDriver, I decided to go to the tent they played in and skip Paradise Lost (I actually saw a song of theirs when the bass wouldn’t function, hence it sounded kinda odd). And I’m sure I did the right choice since I got another boost of energy both from the melodic and groovy death metal performed on stage, from the band’s attitude and the crowd’s madness. Dez Fafara, the band’s vocalist, is very skilled at controlling the madness and the chaos in the crowd, making it ‘worse’ (in the good concert meaning of ‘worse’) with each song. He actually explains that you should get out of the way if you don’t participate in the most pit. Wise words at his concert.

Being under DevilDriver’s influence, I decided to skip Sabaton’s monotonousness and repeating songs (even if I like their pyro effects) and went to the smallest stage of the festival, Metaldome, to watch Obituary. I never saw Obituary live and was quite thrilled since I heard a lot of good things about them. I even liked what I saw. A massive display of energy and skills, not too much instrument play, more tight, accurate and precise as it suits a band that’s already a legend of the genre. Back to the tents, I went in for few minutes both for Amon Amarth and Sick of it All. While the first one was delivering its melodic hymns to Thor and Odin roasting the air with stage pyro effects, Sick of it All was more suitable for my mood set by the previous concerts. Harcore thrashy punk that kept the moshpits running and the floor shaking. I have to mention that both of the Marquee tents had a big screen hung above the entrance, screen on which you could see the concerts that happened inside. For Sick of it all, there were already a lot of people watching from outside as it was getting rather difficult to sneak it and see from inside.

It was time for Slayer on main stage and for Cannibal Corpse on the little Metaldome. I saw both bands within the last month and showwise, Slayer is way boring than their fellow Americans. So I went once more to the Metaldome to be once more amazed by the insane fast guitar and bass playing and the never ending hair-mills of Corpsegrinder. While I don’t understand a word he’s ‘singing’, the music has a fantastic energising effect. I used the energy to take one quick trip towards the main stage to catch a bit of Slayer afterall. Even if from far away, but I know people who wouldn’t forgive me if i fully skipped their show. Last bands in the tents were Kyuss lives! (who might have great music, but the high pitch parts of the songs made me leave in the middle of the first one) and Lamb of God. I can honestly watch Lamb of God weekly and still enjoy it. It’s mad. Randy Blythe, the singer, can’t stand still too long, unless he has to scream something. Else he’s either climbing and jumping from a monitor, walking all over the stage or jumping or headbanging. Anything that involves a lot of motion. I also love the fact that he has nice short speeches in which he is pretty blunt and prepares the crowd to go crazy on the upcoming songs. Playing a festival, they mainly performed the already famous hits which kept the crowd surfers surfing non stop, the moshpits going round and round and the hands jumping or frenetically waving in the air. I’m so excited to see them again this weekend.

Last on the main stage was the legend also known as The Prince of Darkness. Or Ozzy. And his friends. Friends who saved the evening, as, like one of the Dutch reviews said, Ozzy was a bad guest at his own party. He actually had cancelled a show two days prior to Graspop due voice problems. And since he cancelled Graspop the previous year, he more or less HAD to be on stage that evening. He had the energy and mood for the show I guess, but not the full voice. It was almost hilarious in a sad way when he was presenting the band members by shouting their names and all he managed was an ozzified Donald Duck like voice. The singing parts were ok as long as they didn’t require long or powerful notes. I can’t say if the crowd was disappointed or not, they kept cheering on each familiar tune while we stayed an watched. Which was probably max half of the show as all of us had seen Ozzy before in a much better state.

All in all, a good day for thrash and death metal, with a special treat from the weather: it started raining when Slash performed ‘Slither’ (lyrics being in the lines of ‘here comes the water
It comes to wash away the sins of you and I’). Good thing it didn’t last long.

Fortarock 2012 review

Photo gallery to be available soon at andreutza.biz/zenphoto

As far as my experience goes in Netherlands or with Dutch people, I can use the word ‘practical’ when it comes to describing them. And that is also applied to the Fortarock festival which has the biggest advantage of being a one day festival. A young and growing festival, located in the Brakkenstein park in the city of Nijmegen, walking distance from train or bus stations and starting at noon, its duration makes for such an enjoyable Saturday afternoon. I’ve been to three or four days festivals and while there’s plenty of fun parts in that, I consider that we’re way over the days when people hardly had access to live concerts, hence their desperate need for once a year event where they could see all the big bands during three to seven days. I really find it more practical with a Saturday filled with concerts, a mix of ‘big’ and ‘small’ bands, for all tastes and interests, which still leaves you plenty of time in the weekend and doesn’t require days off from work to travel there.

Practicality was also seen pretty much all over the area. I mean, for about twelve hours of access on the festival grounds, the organisers set up enough bars, food selling places, merch, toilets and I hardly had to swim through the crowd to get from one stage to another. Not to forget the weather that really was on our side for that day, so overall no reason to complain. The day was full of awesome experiences and concerts. I also want to give a big thanks to the staff, whether they were paid or volunteers, but I haven’t encountered a person whose face was grumpy. Even when the security guys would kick you out of the photo pit before the ‘regular’ three songs, they did it in a calm and friendly manner.

It didn’t start as awesome though, since the Oslo airport security people begun to strike the evening before, so Saturday morning I ended up in a departure hall filled by a huge snake-queue that the remaining working guards were trying to keep functional. Without getting into details, I caught my flight in time, landed, got the right trains to Nijmegen and easily found the festival’s location, arriving about half an hour before everything started. The everything was opened on the Jägermeister stage (the tent) by the French death-metal Benighted. A rather brutal start of the day, meant to wake you up if you haven’t already. I remember a few quite melodic guitar solos or riffs that were nicely filling the parts in between the mad vocals and the super fast blast beats. I kept thinking of the tunes I heard from ‘Man must die’, but as I still had some stuff to put in place after my arrival, I didn’t watch their fullset.

A little later, the main stage brings the show of one of the bands that made me travel to Netherlands: the Icelandic heathen bastards from Sólstafir. With their personal way of making very atmospheric music out of some metal genres that wouldn’t let your parents sleep, the guys come on stage in their redneck’ish outfits and managed to draw more and more crowd closer to the stage with each minute. I guess almost nobody understood a word in Icelandic, yet that was less important when the beautiful vibes of the continuously lazy yet tempo increasing rhythms are capturing your ears. The vocal parts are also well planned to build the heavy atmosphere that one can find on the disk, yet, being outdoors, I think some of its charm got literally lost in the wind. At the end of the show I was happy to see plenty of folks cheering and a decent amount of people gathered to watch them.

For various reasons I skipped Asphyx and returned later to the main stage for another ‘cozy’ musical experience (if I am to compare with the styles about to pour from the speakers later on that evening). Devin Townsend and his Project, a combo I’ve seen live before and I’d happily see again as often as possible. While I am not fully familiar with all the songs recently released (and that I’m sure he played few of), those of you who have seen crazy Davey live probably know what I mean when I say he really knows what he has to do on stage. And he does it with enthusiasm, every single time I see him. He’s never out of smiles nor silly faces. Then he goes back to playing his guitar, something which he actually is very good at, delivering everything from soft ambiental sounds to heavy and extreme riffs and beats. For a complete dish à la Devin, the Ziltoid’s voice comes up often in between or during songs, bringing even more smiles on people’s faces. And what’s better than having a happy audience to play for?

Upon hearing recommendations to see Nasum live, I relocated to the tent to pay some attention the grindcore Swedes, whose history has a very sad moment back in 2004 when the December tsunami killed the band’s frontman. Yet, in 2012 they found the strength to reunite and I understood the people’s eagerness to see them live. A lot of brutality on stage, even punk like at times, everything was played at max speed, toasting the much too relaxed brain cells of mine. Yet, their stage attitude was much more friendlier than their music which must be filled with a lot of hatred against something or someone. But after few songs sounding pretty similar to each other I left, deciding to save my energy for the upcoming bands. I took a short trip to glance at Trivium’s performance, but like everytime I saw them before, I can’t find myself impressed except for the fact that they seem to always have plenty of energy on stage. But else, it almost feels like they put a song on repeat and while there’s occasionally some cooler guitar part, it’s never enough to keep me interested. So I listened to half of the concert from somewhere far away and used the other half to grab some food.

Next up on the tent stage I was to witness the sleaziest show in metal. Well, I was aware from before that Steel Panther is all about sex, but I never knew they’re that explicit. On one hand, they really are eye candy for photographers since they do have the stage experience and know how to pose. Not to mention the glammiest of the glam outfits, or the bass player’s constantly hair care system. But they get so gross by repeating the same explicit sexual jokes and spending so much time talking, that I’m sure I’d avoid their shows in the future. On the happy side though, there’s a lot of fans that come around in funny outfits, and actually the audience in the front even reminds you of old days concerts where girls scream and faint when the singer glances a bit longer at them. And they pay back the glance with a sight of their bra’s contents. As for music, I must admit the show is too overwhelming to even remember what they sound like. Except that they had a chorus with something about an Asian hooker.

Time for metal scene’s iconic acts to start taking over. First of them were the New York thrashers known as Anthrax who had reunited again with Joey Belladona for their vocal parts. Joey hardly spends too much time on one spot, giving the band’s show a really entertaining dynamism, especially as the crowd seemed to welcome him with open arms. A stage full of pentagrams, skilled musicians, classic thrash songs, these were the main ingredients to unleash the crowd and make it start raining with crowd surfers over the photo pit. Heavy headbanging was also a sign of music’s speed, besides the multitude of voices singing (screaming) along for most songs, a clear proof of the band’s notoriety.

Back to serious music on the tent stage. Meshuggah. Swedes with balls and with their extreme metal that tends to ignore a lot of music patterns, yet managing to stick to the simplest of them. I saw them live plenty of times, yet this was the first time afetr the release of their new album, ‘Koloss’. This new release brought a new backdrop, new songs in the playlist, if I’m not mistaken they even rearranged a bit some of the old ones (at least ‘Pravus’ sounded different to me), yet the crowd still screams with excitement when they recognise the intro from ‘Future breed machine’ or ‘Bleed’. Tight as always, annoyingly repeating the same thing yet changing it every few beats during one song, the Swedes deliver their usual master-level performance, always leaving behind some people in the crowd with their mouths wide open, people who seem to wonder about what on Earth did they just witness on stage.

Another type of groovy metal begun soon on the main stage, this time played by the Americans from Machine Head. They started with some technical problems for the first song, as one of their guitarists was absent for most of the time, but he elegantly got back into the set once the issues were solved. I haven’t started listening to Machine Head until recently, thus their latest album, ‘Unto the locust’ is the one I like best so far. To my own excitement, they started with songs from it, but I also noticed that the crowd was cheering a lot when they recognised the tunes from this album. As they have a lot of softer or mellow parts in almost each song, that would soon explode into fast and angry riffs supported, all supported by groovy drumming, Machine Head’s shows seem to reach a new level of intensity with each song. As long as the vocals can well interpret both the clean parts and the harsh ones, the band is certain to be a pleasant live experience.

The previous level of intensity was nothing, compared to what happened next on the Jägermeister stage. Originating from Richmond, Virginia (something proudly announced at every show) Lamb of God delivers one of the most insane performance I ever saw. Actually, they did it each time I see them. The band’s vocalist, Randy Blythe, must be burning more calories during a show than a marathon runner in a race. He screams, jumps, headbangs, talks, spits, drinks, moves continuously from one end of the stage to another, yet his vocal performance is hardly affected by all this effort. Maybe that’s what he actually needs in order to express all the intense feelings in the band’s anthems. Such intensity quickly spreads through the crowd’s need to headbang, which made it dangerous to actually stand and photograph too close to the fence. The show involved even more crowdsurfers and even a daring guy who jumped on the stage, greeted Randy and then did a splendid stage diving. While the guitar and bass parts are not to be ignored, the drumming in Lamb of God’s songs is a fantastic thing to experience live. I think even Meshuggah’s drummer, Tomas Haake agrees, since I saw him watching it from backstage.

I left the tent with a very low level of energy after screaming along Lamb of God’s songs and headed towards the main stage to watch the final act of the evening, another iconic band that goes by the name of Slayer. It got quite crowded on the field in front of the stage, making it a rather beautiful sight from the stage. It finally got dark so that the light show on the main stage actually made sense and it was well thought to ‘dance’ along the band’s classic tunes. It’s always impressive to be close to Kerry King or Tom Arraya and see them in action, but besides the fact that they have pioneered certain aspects of today’s metal and were/are an inspiration for thousands of kids, they’re not even half as good as musicians that played previously that day, guys that were way more versatile in playing their instruments. But as long as the crowd loves Slayer and can accurately do air guitaring or drumming during their sets, they’ll be headlining a lot of big stages and show the world what made them gain their fame.

Had this festival been organised every month of the summer, I think I’d try to travel to each of them. I can’t stress enough the fact that I find it brilliant with having everything packed on two stages for the duration of one day. Now, I can only look forward for next year’s edition and until then smile while recalling the cool moments of the day.

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