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Tuska Open Air 2022 - 7/1/2022 - Suvilahti - Helsinki

After two years that felt almost like a decade, Tuska finally returned, and change shape once again. The transforming Suvilahti area has brought yet again the organisers to rethink the festival layout, so this year the area was bigger than before, and ready to host a record amount of people.
Because of these changes, for instance, the main stage (a.k.a. Radio Rock stage) had been moved closer to the Kattilahalli building, and facing away from the sun the whole time (this would make Abbath proud!). All the area encompassing Kattilahalli and its surroundings was made into a big food court, and the building itself hosted no more shows, but instead was the location of the VIP dining area and whiskey bar. In addition the second biggest stage (tent stage), had been moved to the opposite side of the area, which was closer to the entrance towards the shopping mall.
South east from the skatepark-turned-Absolut-vodka-drinking-area was instead the Inferno stage, while a fourth, indoor stage (Kvlt stage) was situated inside of Tiivistämö. There was also a smaller food area, arranged roughly where in the previous years were the VIP area and the backstage of the two main stages, and there were several artsy installations scattered inside and outside throughout the festival.
Seems like this setting really tried to take the most out of the Suvilahti grounds, and while being generally quite crowded, there have been only few moments when the festival has really felt "crowded" (mostly when trying to access the indoor stage as there were often visible queues forming outside the door).

Friday: the beginning

Collecting passes and wristband exchange this year was really quick and easy (something very much appreciated), and arrow stickers on the ground inside the mall pointed in the correct direction, so it was really hard to miss the right place.
After a traditional pre-lunch in Sörnäinen, we carried ourselves into the heat to the festival gates. The temperature was not as bad as in the rest of Europe, but still not great for these latitudes, especially on an area which is mostly a big lump of asphalt.
First was Church of the Dead on the Inferno stage. The singer had been covering himself all over in black corpsepaint and looked quite energetic. All the band seemed to benefit from it, and you could feel from their gig that they were properly honouring their role as festival opening act with a solid performance.

Church of the Dead
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The first act to play on the main stage was instead Eluveitie. The band seems to be past its golden days, and perhaps also because the members were scattered across the big stage, it didn’t appear as cohesive as they used to. Several line-up changes and additions over the years have left the frontman Chrigel as the sole original member, and immediately after the festival the band announced the departure of Michalina Malisz (hurdy-gurdy).
In summary it didn’t feel like their most memorable performance to date - mostly focused on the 2019 record "Ategnatos", and concluded by the newest single "Aidus".

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For our introduction to the Kvlt stage, as we found our way, we had the chance to check a few moments of symphonic black metallers Abstrakt’s show, not enough to actually comment much on their gig (given the many overlaps) but enough to see the guys had certaintly been longing for their long-awaited debut on Tuska. The band was in fact meant to be playing as part of the 2020 line-up, and were now enthusiastic to finally do so.

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Sadly after just a few minutes and with the absence of a photo pit not really helping, it was time to run towards the next thing. So moments later we found ourselves again in front of the Inferno stage for Elder.
Even though early afternoon, in this unforgiving sun, was clearly not the best setting for this kind of music, I would say that the show was better than expected, and it helped getting more into festival mood just in time for one of the traditional Tuska "party bands": Lost Society.

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Samy has been radically changing his look since the last we got to see the band: the frontman showed up with black/blue/green hair, heavier make-up, and a whole lot of shiny black leather. The rest of the band looked pretty much unchanged, and so was their attitude, which had somewhat always been contagious, enough to bring the audience to start the first circle pit of the day (at least in my knowledge).
It’s nice to see how these young boys have been growing up as a band, as well as in their shows, while still delivering with the same quality. "No Absolution" was a good success for them, and the upcoming "If The Sky Came Down" seems promising too (the first and last song of this set were from this new record). Glad that these guys seem to still have fun and could once again provide the right entertainment to the Tuska audience.

Lost Society
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With the tent stage and Inferno stage always overlapping, many people had to make more or less difficult choices, of course according to their taste. This time we went to check out the tent, where Perturbator was next. Most of the set was focused on "Lustful Sacraments", and while it felt refreshing to have a change of pace from the typical metal bands in the event, it was still too sweaty to dance around for most, and the gig itself - at least in the earlier part - was not quite at the level we got used to from the French synthwave artist.

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Back to the main stage, we got to see another well-known act here on these grounds: Beast In Black. The guys put up an entertaining show as usual, heavy metal, flames, smoke, solos and smiles everywhere. Always bringing good vibes, and fooling around with the audience, for the enjoyment of their fans. Bonus points for the "cheeky devil with cauldron" bass design!

Beast In Black
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After a 5 minutes dinner break - shortened by queuing at the food stall - we paid a visit to Red Fang on the other side (the stages felt quite far apart this year, especially when walking back and forth through people across one side of the area to the other).
The Americans opted for a different choice of setlist, playing most of their classics from the early records, which made for a really enjoyable gig to their fans as well as those only partially familiar with the band. Of course a large part of the audience was in the tent watching Ensiferum instead, but that would have been too obvious of a choice.

Red Fang
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The atmosphere started to get more heated up as we headed towards the late part of the evening - while on the other hand the temperatures at least cooled down enough to somewhat tolerable levels. This had been a long, hot, and very sweaty day, but none of that prevented to properly enjoy some good old Carcass.
The English band is often a guarantee of a good show, although it would be nice to see more club gigs from them rather than always playing at festivals. They moved with surgical precision (see what I did there) from new to old songs in yet another tight display of good old death metal, topped of course by the final "Heartwork".

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Having to make a choice between trying to catch a glimpse of Polymoon, and being at the tent stage in time for Heilung, sadly we skipped the former in favour of the latter option, given that Heilung was quite possibly the most picture-worthy band of this entire event.
There was a lot going on on stage: while drums accompanied chants of a ritualistic feel, there were at times people with a bird-head-shaped hat dancing in the background, and at some other a horde of warriors standing menacingly on stage, seemingly ready to attack. Of course lots of ornaments, horns and ancient instruments set up the perfect atmosphere to be transported centuries back in the age of the vikings. Definitely a sight not to be missed, and during the weekend the next Finnish show of the band has been already announced, part of a tour this autumn that will see the band teaming up with the Faroese artist Eivør and Lili Refrain from Italy.

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Having seen Korn a few times back in the early 2000’s, it didn’t feel as appealing to be watching the whole show, but realising how easy it was to remember all of those old songs that accompanied the late teenage years was still impressive. Whether many people cared much for the newest material is still up for debate, as for most of the audience it was likely more the nostalgic factor at play here, and since the festival had an age limit of over 18-years-old, it’s hard to say what nowadays teenagers would have thought about it.

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Saturday: the King’s day

While originally planning for a late entry - mainly to avoid the hottest hours since the weather was even less forgiving than the previous day - we ended up once again at the gates right before opening time. After drinking some water and making sure to refill completely, our first band today was Shape of Despair.
Normally it wouldn’t be the happiest of things to start the day with some funeral doom, but this worked surprisingly well, especially being in the shadow of the tent. The duo Koivula/Koskinen at the vocals gave again a good performance, and this felt like a really nice way to ease into the second day.

Shape of Despair
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After catching a very, very quick glimpse of Amoth, Insomnium was next on the main stage. There was somewhat a feeling that the band has been settling into doing their own thing all too well and even though they put up their usual, honest, show, in the end it was nothing to tell stories about. The addition of Jani Liimatainen gives perhaps more richness to the band’s sound, but really the biggest difference from the last time was how white Markus Vanhala hair has gotten. It could also be that there has been a bit of an overload of this type of music, with several bands in the genre doing just about the same thing, and perhaps it’s time for something new.

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Maybe also because of this feeling, it was quite refreshing to go see Oranssi Pazuzu right after that. The band never disappoints in their music nor in their shows, with especially the guitarist Ikon who handled his instrument as if he had just caught a trout bare-handed and was struggling to hold it still. Rightly focused mostly on "Mestarin Kynsi", this was so far the best gig of the day, and only the incontrollable sweating made it somewhat less enjoyable.

Oranssi Pazuzu
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It was the year 2019 when Vltimas released their full-length "Something Wicked Marches In". Now this international supergroup fronted by David Vincent and including members of Aura Noir, Cryptopsy and Corpus Christii had the chance to show what they have got to their Finnish fans. Admittedly, their blackened death metal show was quite entertaining to watch, and Vincent confirmed once again his qualities as frontman (if there was ever the need). Slightly more confusing was his outfit, more gothic-style than what one would have thought for the occasion.

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Back to the main stage, Stam1na was, well, being Stam1na. These guys like to have fun and likewise entertain their fans during their shows, and this time was no exception. Somehow surprisingly, they didn’t come up with any strange outfits or other extra gimmicks on stage - at least not in the first part of the performance - but instead a nice bonus was Mariska joining them on stage for "Tavastia Palamaan!".
Finally it was also a good time to grab some food, today without queuing at all, which was a pleasant and welcome surprise.

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If there is a band that is sure to always give a great live show, that has to be Amorphis. One of the Tuska crowd favourites (and regulars through the years), these guys once again were among the most engaging act of the festival.
A mix of songs from their newest effort "Halo" and of all-time classics ("My Kantele", "The Bee", "House of Sleep" to name a few), combined with the always convincing performance of Tomi Joutsen - but really of the band as a whole - created the perfect mixture for yet another very positive gig.

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Likely due to the overlap with the last bit of Amorphis, the Kvlt stage area was still quite empty right before Enphin began to play. Luckily that changed within a few minutes, and even if we couldn’t stay long due to the never-ending quest of running from stage to stage, it was still enough to appreciate the new, more industrial, electronic-oriented iteration of the band formerly known to most as either PH and/or Mr. Peter Hayden.

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It had definitely been a while since seeing Baroness last, but I guess it was worth the wait, as the show turned out to be more interesting that I would have expected, despite some initial technical issues. Particularly the guitarist Gina Gleason, still the newest member of the band in order of time, took the spotlight with her riffs and her happy attitude.
Like their compatriots Red Fang, they opted for a set more focused on the older material (especially from the highly-acclaimed "Blue Record"), which again, proved to be a good choice for their fans.

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Finally came the most awaited moment for - probably - the vast majority of the crowd attending today. Or not quite. Because actually there was about 15-20minutes of extra waiting time, since the guys from the stage crew had to manually pull down and roll the big Mercyful Fate logo covering all the props preparation of the show.
Once everything was good to go, cheers exploded on the first notes of "The Oath", with the King singing in a red coat and a half baphomet-like mask (leaving exposed only from his mouth down) from the upper floor of the stage setup. This was very similar to what he has had in the past when touring as King Diamond.
There was also room for a new song, "The Jackal Of Salzburg", but really this gig was filled with one masterpiece after the other, while leaving plenty of time for Shermann, Wead and bassist Joey Vera (Armored Saints, Fates Warning) to show off when Mr King Diamond was off from vocal duty. Meanwhile there were a couple of costume changes as well, as the mask got replaced by a black crown, and later both the crown and the red jacket were replaced by the more traditional King Diamond outfit and hat we all are familiar with.
"A Dangerous Meeting", followed by "Melissa", marked the half of the show, which felt like it went on almost too fast. As everyone in front of the stage sang along for "Come To The Sabbath", the scene repeated itself in the encore with "Satan’s Fall". For most of the Mercyful Fate fans present, this was by far the highlight of the festival, if not of the year.

King Diamond
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Quickly escaping the festival area, we left in order to gather energy for the final day.

Sunday: let the kids in

It seemed like there was more rush for people to get inside on the last day, since today everyone was already in line waiting to get in well in advance. So passing the gates took a few minutes longer, and it was quite close to showtime when we found our way to Cryptic Hatred.
These young guys have been playing a lot of shows as of late, making a good name for themselves in the local death metal scene and earning them this spot at Tuska.It was surely a good reward for their effort and I am sure we haven’t heard nor seen the last of them.

Cryptic Hatred
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Fans of power metal had a rough time when Sonata Arctica and Gloryhammer collided with their respective showtimes. We opted for the latter because who doesn’t prefer funny costumes and huge plastic toys - not what it sounds like - to, well, not that. Also on this day the area was open for kids of all ages until mid-afternoon, so this worked as entertainment both for actual kids, and grown-ups who still feel like kids at heart.

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A few minutes of listening to songs about unicorns and whatnot, we had to squeeze our way in again towards the front of the Kvlt stage, this time for Rebellix. This was yet another enthusiastic bunch that worked their way through playing in the local scene and now are happy to be showcasing their thrash metal at Tuska.
The result was an entertaining show, in which the band managed to start a small circle pit to liven up more the atmosphere even more.

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After one of the countless water refill of the weekend, it was time to meet a very familiar face for the long-time attendees of Tuska: of course we are talking about Devin Townsend.
The stage was surprisingly bare an minimal, a fully black background without even the band’s logo, but little mattered, considering there was a guy cracking jokes and making funny faces while playing many fans’ favourites. That was enough of a show. Nice to have some Strapping Young Lad represented as well, with "Aftermath", and especially the conclusive "Love?".

Devin Townsend
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We continued at a good pace towards the tent, where we found Matt Pike and his High on Fire. The trio has normally been one of those bands well worth watching, but this time something feels somehow amiss and it just didn’t sound as good as usual. Still nice to enjoy some proper slow riffs, but not the best of their shows.

High on Fire
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Luckily soon after was time for Mille Petrozza and his Kreator to liven up the atmosphere. Although they could have used a tad less pyros since the weather was already hot enough.
Having seen really good Kreator shows, and so so ones, this one was somewhat in between. The band seemed to be in good shape, and the audience responded really well to their hits - a bit less towards the newer material, although I have to say "Hate Über Alles!" actually worked quite nicely. Of course at some point the frontman played Moses with the fans, and split the audience apart. This resulted into a big moshpit in the good spirit of thrash metal.

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The tent was filled up completely, and even more people were gathering around on the sides and towards the back, when came Jinjer’s turn. Last band on this stage, the Ukrainians were first removed from the festival due to the uncertainties of the ongoing war, and re-added to the line-up nearly at the last minute.
One could say that the current world events have indirectly helped the band in gaining support (note that the lights and the band logo both had blue and yellow patterns), but honestly they have always been a good live act. They proved it again this time, and didn’t miss the chance to thank people for their support. Over a 70-minutes-long show, there wss plenty of time for that, but also for closing up the day with another good performance, and I am sure the guys will be welcome again here anytime.

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After a long and sweaty three days of festival, we decided to leave the festival area early, take advantage of the nearby mall - to get some snacks and a couple drinks - and to chill in the now much more tolerable sunny evening weather by the sea. We were still able to hear the show (and eventually with some effort also see the main stage), but it was definitely much nicer to get to properly enjoy some good weather during summer, especially in Finland (and finally relaxing for a while at the end of the festival always feels great).

Following this break we headed back home, once again with a baggage of good Tuska memories and glimpses of catching up with fellow music enthusiasts. Which is most of what a festival should be about. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait three years for the next one, and that we’ll be able to make more good memories from this traditional gathering of metalheads.

Report a cura di Marco Manzi

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