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Tuska Open Air 2018 | FESTIVALPHOTO

Tuska Open Air 2018

For those new to Tuska, the Helsinki, Finland based festival is one of those city festivals located in the heart of the capital city with no need for a dedicated camping area as there are 50+ hotels nearby. In 2018 the festival celebrated its 21st year and keeps going strong. To be precise, this year 34,000 attendees strong over a 3 day weekend (some 10,000+ per day).

Now, let’s start with the fun part: Tuska Day 0. It’s worth showing up to Helsinki already on Thursday before the first actual festival day. The local bars get filled up with metalheads and this year there was an official “Tuska Heatseeker” pre-party at the Tavastia Club plus as usual a slew of unofficial side events. On the Rocks -club downtown in Helsinki hosted a Craft Beer & Metal themed pre-party show that was led by Death to Some, a much more than an adequate tribute to Chuck Schuldiner’s Death, featuring members of Pain Confessor, Omnium Gatherum and more.

Is Tuska an underground, “pop”, alternative, hard rock or extreme metal festival? None of the narrow definitions are really right; Tuska’s choice of bands for 2018 was yet again tasteful, diverse and relevant.

Could Tuska be one of the world’s best-organized festivals, with its compact festival area that simply works like a charm?

Close to zero queuing time throughout the entire weekend is hard to come by, unless you wanted to grab a signature from one of the most popular acts at the signature booth, or wanted to go for some of the high-in-demand Tuska merchandise at the wrong hour. And quite a variety of the latter one, and something new every year: This year’s specialty was that you could buy your own dark brew of Tuska coffee courtesy of Lehmus Roastery.

This year the area was also aesthetically a tad more pleasing, with additional pieces of art hanging from the ceiling of the Kellohalli stage, and the typical dull-looking gates surrounding the beer areas veiled in Tuska-themed cloths.

You can see photos from the festival area here:

Moonsorrow was one of the main draws on Friday after office hours. A 60-minute slots equals no more than five tracks from the Helsinki favorite, three of which were from the band’s latest and well-received studio outing Suden Tunti. Decent show but these guys are best enjoyed at a late night club rather than on a festival afternoon. But hey, it’s kinda fun some are stubborn enough still to wear warpaint on stage some 20+ years after their first demo.

Shiraz Lane, on the other hand, represents the now-rare breed of promising new Finnish bands. While LA-style sleaze is not exactly today’s hottest trend, it would be a shame to overlook Shiraz Lane’s powerful live shows and especially strong songwriting. Even if the band has a relatively small following, they pulled in a full house to the Kellohalli stage that they were able to win over during the course of their set. Many of the band’s choruses pack so much punch that you find yourself grasping whether this is some old 80s radio anthem you just can’t quite recall. But the band has still its own distinctive sound despite the obvious influences, much thanks to Hannes Kett’s (vocals) personal voice.

Tyrantti is one of those jokes that didn’t really deserve to be translated into a Nordic language. Think tongue-in-cheek Judas Priest in Finnish and outrageous mustaches. Not a particularly funny joke, and one that gets old quickly. Perhaps the mellow early Saturday afternoon was the right slot for the band - the trio unashamedly got through their 30 min set which was pushing the limits of what the crowd could take. On a positive note, the band has put their name on a hazy Kobra New England IPA by Coolhead Brewing, which must be the best thing they’ve touched.

Sweden’s finest were strongly represented at Tuska this year: Meshuggah, Arch Enemy and At The Gates are no Tuska-novices. While Meshuggah and At The Gates took their turns slugging away at the tent stage to enthusiastic crowds, Arch Enemy took full command of the main stage with one of the biggest turnouts of the festival. Alissa White-Gluz has taken such a strong command at the helm of the band from day 1 that it’s hard to even remember they had another female singer prior to her. Arch Enemy’s live shows run like a well-oiled machine without seeming overly routined. Alissa’s stage antics may seem repetitive if you’ve seen more than one show, but they’re always backed by genuine contagious energy that gets the crowd going.

You’d be hard-pressed to call the French synthwave phenomenon Carpenter Brut an odd choice for Tuska; anyone having attended a Carpenter Brut gig before must have noticed that there is massive overlap between the fans of these two seemingly different musical styles that still bear many similarities.

You can read a full review of Carpenter Brut's Tuska 2018 show here:

Speaking of odd birds, not many festival organizations had the wits to book Galatic Empire, a full-clad Star Wars metal cover band of YouTube-fame, to their metal festival. This joke *did* carry through the band’s 45-minute set, as they had scripted some outfit changes and fun banter between their songs. And hey, Duel of the Fates and other John Williams gems actually do work with some distortion.

None of this year’s choices for headliners was a super obvious choice. The trio of Body Count ft. Ice-T, Gojira and Parkway Drive certainly offered something for everyone.

Body Count’s first visit to Finland made some serious waves- it was the weekend’s most anticipated and highly entertaining show. The show was all but lukewarm, and Ice-T made some headlines in Finland with his politically loaded speeches about barely making it through the customs, US politics, racism and more. A surprise visit from Dave Lombardo, who had earlier in the day played with Dead Cross, was the icing on the cake, as he jumped behind the kit for Raining Blood/Postmortem.

Gojira’s Saturday set took away any shadow of a doubt whether their fame in Finland has already risen to headliner levels- it certainly has. Armed with a supersized video screen at the back of the stage, the band’s show wasn’t only the showcase of musicianship we’re used to, but also aesthetically pleasing.

Be it then the serene Sunday or Parkway Drive’s limited star power, the last day’s spread didn’t attract quite the same crowd as the earlier days. In spite of that, Parkway Drive’s festival-closing set still got the cake for the weekend’s biggest circle pits with active crowd participation.

With a 3 day ticket reasonably priced at EUR 129, Tuska remains superb value for money for those who value a slightly more intimate festival experience in contrast to the mega-festivals in central Europe.

Writer: Lari
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