By Mark Gromen
The industrial setting (oil storage tanks, smokestacks, etc.) that is the backdrop for Tuska was beautified, on day three, by a line-up of female-fronted outfits. AMARANTHE kicked things off, appropriately enough, Elize Ryd's (ex-KAMELOT) troupe having added an "E" to a NIGHTWISH song to create their moniker. She wore a leather jacket, hot pants and black fringed shoe, Ryd's face was obscured by oversized bug-eyed sunglasses for the first few songs ('Invincible', 'Leave Everything Behind'). She permanently lost the biker jacket, but the sunglasses reappeared mid-set, the afternoon sun apparently too much. Alongside the two male vocalists (one clean, one gruff), she gyrated and did her impression of a cheerleader, as the synth-pop, dance metal (largely courtesy of a pre-recorded keyboard track), like 'Infinity', 'Afterlife' and their signature tune was lapped up by the festival's largest gathering, aided by a swelling of the female ranks, both sides of the stage. Still not convinced that AMARANTHE isn't some sort of pre-fab creation from central casting: "Give me a cute girl, a blond guitarist, a rap guy with a bandana and ripped jeans, another in a basketball jersey..."
Someone suggested that BARBE-Q-BARBIES is Finland's answer to CRUCIFIED BARBARA. Yes, it's an all-female quintet, led by a short haired, blond coquette of a singer, with pierced tongue. Musically, they offer pretty standard mid-tempo bluesy rock n roll, with the occasional punk attitude. Hats off for the tongue (not pierced!)-in-cheek 'Twisted Little Sister' and 'STFU', which stands exactly for what you think, matter of fact, the more wordy version is the repetitive chorus!
ASKING ALEXANDRIA 'canceled' on 24 hours notice, citing visa problems. Either they're the most naive youngsters, expecting to mobilize band, crew and equipment overseas in less than a day, or they knew well in advance there was no way they could fulfill the date in question (although their merch made it and they, along with DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, another cancellation, both were listed on the official Tuska t-shirt). Whether it was they and/or the festival organization who kept mum for so long, we'll never know. Regardless BATTLE BEAST was summoned on short notice, gifted a prime afternoon slot on the big stage. Onstage, they're still the enthusiastic youngsters who opened for NIGHTWISH's European tour, two years ago, albeit with a new singer. A mix of DIO meets SURVIVOR school of power metal, the Beast let it roar (actually the title to their opener) on the likes of 'Out On The Streets', 'Fight Kill Die', 'Iron Hand' and the paradoxically chosen closer, 'Enter The Metal World'.
Things began winding down and just two the nation's biggest stars remained. First up, STRATOVARIUS, in front of the largest crowd, yet assembled, even though they were housed on the smaller Inferno stage, while preparations were underway for NIGHTWISH on the massive main stage. Speaking to bearded, floppy hat wearing bassist Lauri Porra beforehand, he mentioned how stoked the band was to have new -double-bass drum wunderkid Rolf Pilve in the fold. The newboy certainly got a workout, on the likes of 'Speed Of Light' (up second in the running order), 'Black Diamond' and the closing 'Hunting High And Low'. Porra's bass rumbled the introduction to 'Kiss Of Judas'. Elsewhere they sprinkled in more recent material, including 'Halcyon Days', a yellow lit (although almost imperceptible in daylight) 'Dragons' and 'Phoenix' which saw Timo Kotipelto, a magician flipping the mic between hands, get the crowd to thrust hands overhead and yell. Keyboardist Jens Johansson (a pair of illuminated rubber ducks affixed to his keys) was afforded a solo spotlight.
You could tell NIGHTWISH was playing today (June 30th), not just from the number of t-shirts sported (earlier in the day, some fans waiting in line for hours, to get a free autograph, thereby "missing" most of the afternoon performances), but by the sheer amount of older, non-traditional metalheads (especially in the VIP area) in attendance. The band appeals to Moms (even without bringing your kids to the show), as well and mainstream rock listeners. With pyro shooting across the front of the stage, some pink flame, some orange, the national heroes came out firing on all cylinders, with lively renditions of 'Dark Chest Of Wonder' and 'Wish I Had An Angel' before people even had a chance to catch their collective breaths. Keyboardist/founder Tuomas Holopainen, in his now requisite purple velvet Mad Hatter/Willy Wonka top hat, had already taken a few sips of his wine bottle. An even earlier nod to the old school followed, with 'She Is My Sin', which Floor Jansen has reinterpreted as her own, and 'Ever Dream'. Pity the Finnish equivalent of a Hot Topic come-lately, waiting for something they knew. As if sensing that very sentiment, it was 'Storytime', the statuesque Floor pinwheeling her hair, risking a wardrobe malfunction (damn!). Piper Troy Donockley slipped into his seat onstage for a rollicking 'I Wan My Tears Back', 'Nemo' and the instrumental 'Last Of The Wilds' where the stage spanning video wall behind drummer Jukka Nevalainen shone black & white images of the Highlands. During the instrumental Donockley switched from pipes to penny whistle and back, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen trying to trade licks versus the piper's fingering. With images of a heart and lightning on the big board, it was time for 'Bless The Child'. Throughout, it's evident that Jansen's role has been greatly increased, at the expense of bassist Marco Hietala, who offers male counterpoint vocals, but in a diminished capacity than previous shows. 'Romanticide', 'Amaranth' and 'Ghost River' gave way to 'Over The Hills And Far Away', the GARY MOORE cover seeing Donockley returning to the stage for the final time. Following 'Ghost Love Score', skulls and cryptic text flash onscreen during 'Song Of Myself', before ending appropriately, with 'Last Ride Of The Day', completing a 90 minute thrill ride of their own.
Check out Tuska Open Air - Day 1: KING DIAMOND Reigns In Hel-sinki here
Check out Tuska Open Air - Day 2: What A Difference A Day Makes: Thrash, No Splash here
More photos from Tuska, Day 3 can be seen at this location