Gone are the days when heavy metal was far from trendy and its listeners were considered as losers. For a proof you only have to check out the bills of summer festivals all over Europe. Also one of the oldest and the most appreciated rock festivals in Finland Provinssirock, which has concentrated mainly in pop music earlier years, has a remarkable amount of metal on the list this year.
POETS OF A FALL
Poets of the Fall have the honour of opening the festival on the main stage. I don’t know what to expect from the band whose success is based on one song in a computer game. Even though the band comes from Finland their music is so American hard rock. When you close your eyes on the stage there might be Creed, Nickelback, Live or any of these “K-mart groups”. Listening to POTF about two songs I find it better to go and look for something more interesting. And yes, indeed... there is something fresh and interesting in a small Rytmi-tent nearby.
There Nicole, the local metalheads are killing their instruments with their new wave Finnish heavy metal. It’s hard to believe that they have 7 albums out already and I see them for the first time. Where have they been for all these years? Their energetic performance is very enjoyable. It feels like this is going to be a good festival.
On the main stage Kotiteollisuus continue the theme of Finnish heavy metal. Hopefully Nightwish fans are around. After 4-5 songs a familiar face comes onto the stage. It’s Tuomas Holopainen himself with his keyboard giving some softness to the band’s harsh metal.
It isn't hard to guess whose turn it's next to play in the NYT-tent. All over in the crowd streams of white sailor caps snake towards the tent. The front of the stage is already packed with these 21st century sailors in their Turbojugend uniforms flashing their naked bottoms, clapping each others on the back and toasting for a friendship. The universe only knows what makes both a highly educated businessman and the most stupid kid on class to colour their faces with black stripes and listen to gay-erotic rock and roll.
Photo: Torsten Volkmer
It's time for Turbonegro. They open with “All My Friends Are Dead” from their latest album Party Animals and quite soon it's clear that this band is in the downward spiral. The new stuff doesn't have the same kick on stage as the songs from their earlier hit record Scandinavian Leather. Unfortunately this time even the older hits like “Sell You Body To The Night” don't raise the feeling much neither. Despite this the loyal fans in front still seem to be fascinated and sing along all the songs. Remarking that the bassist Happy Tom in his new white chief officer outfit and singer Hank Von Helvete his trademark mask on look thinner than before, I can't be thinking if they have sold their bodies and music for a healthier lifestyle. By the time of encores the band start warming up. Maybe they just need more foreplay nowadays. Finally guys screamed “I Got Erection...” it took about an hour. Sorry, too late, my friends.
Headlining the Friday, Nightwish raise all kinds of reactions in the audience, too. Even those males who really don’t care about the band’s opera metal are glued to the front of the main stage. Nightwish have been touring almost 1,5 years now and soon the world tour is over. Numerous gigs have taught the band how to handle the audience. The singer Tarja Turunen has developed from a countryside girl to a self-confident international star. Their show has been designed to work at any bigger venues anywhere in the world. It has all the stadium show ingredients- pyrotechnics, cloth changes and pompous music, of course. Nightwish deliver us a hit after a hit.
Meanwhile Tarja is changing her outfit the bassist Marco Hietala sings Pink Floyd cover “High Hopes” instead of his usual number: Megadeth cover “Symphony Of Destruction”. A bad choice. As a brilliant singer he is but this song doesn’t work as a heavy metal version.
One of the few noteworthy Danish bands is Mew. Their dreamy noise pop draws the tent full of listeners. They deliver Snow Brigade and 156 among some new songs. Mew's performance is a beautiful end for the night.
Photo: Melanie Kircher
Helsinki vampires The 69 Eyes are put on the grill in the middle of the day. Despite the bright sunshine the field is half covered with goths and the likes in black costumes. Behind the shades The 69 Eyes serve us a decent amount of tidbits from their latest album Devils among all the hits. It's amazing that even if you don't own any of their records you can still name almost every song they play. Thanks to local radio stations. This band is like red wine. It gets better with every year, especially the singer Jyrki69.
Okay, now we have a marvellous sunshine and not so marvellous hangover. What do we need then? Good music and cold beer, of course. Both are served at a small Saari-stage. Even queuing up for a beer is fun when you can listen to The Donnas at the same time. Their laid-back and catchy rock makes you shake your ass through the entire show. American rockers know who to make a good time roll onstage. Their singer Brett Anderson (yes, she has the same name as ex-Suede front man.) charms the audience with her naturalness and sweetness, but the girls can also show their tougher side by playing Judas Priest cover “Living After Midnight”.
The biggest hype has faded around Slipknot. After their self-titled hit album the mask gang hasn't really created anything new and special. They have sometimes referred to the best live band. I don’t know about the best but they plough through their set aggressively and with self-confidence despite the fact that on this tour the group is smaller than usually. The other percussionist Shawn Crahan (in clown mask) couldn't make it because of his wife illness. (Hope she gets well soon.) Their music is probably cool stuff for teenagers, but older listeners rather head for The Mars Volta.
THE MARS VOLTA
This peculiar group makes some jaws drop and some yawn. Their first “song” lasts about half an hour. The band seems to fall totally in its own cosmic world. I’d like to scream: “Hello! We are here, too”. Anyway, no doubt that these guys are able to handle their instruments more than well.
Marilyn Manson is advertised as the headliner of the festival. He definitely hasn't got anything against it, as the modesty doesn't belong to his vocabulary. There are divided opinions if he deserves the honour of the headliner or not. The truth is anyway that he has gained on mainly by shocking authorities and parents with his critical outbursts against the society. He isn't famous for his music, really. This is easy to notice in the show as we get to hear a punch of covers: “Personal Jesus”, “Tainted Love” and “Sweet Dreams”. I can't blame him about the picks. Those all are brilliant songs, also when performed by Marilyn Manson. Among the covers we hear some of the band’s own material like “Dope Show” and “Beautiful People”. It's understandable that horror rockers don't bring the whole arsenal abroad when an entertaining show can be built with lesser tricks. This time there are no bibles to tear, no army girls during “Mobscene” (which chorus, by the way, is an outrageous copy from Faith No More's Be Aggressive) and no dildo show. Mister Manson himself finishes his theatrical posturing so suddenly that it takes a couple of seconds to realise that the gig is over. I bet the band is on a half way to the airport when the "outro" is still rolling out from the speakers.
Later tonight New York synth rockers The Bravery mix their rough rock guitar and 80's synth noise praiseworthily onstage. There isn't anything wrong in this band, but they just don’t sparkle. But they should have more An honest mistake -like hits. There is a strong doubt that who will remember this band in 2 years, or even tomorrow morning.
Photo: Melanie Kircher
Teräsbetoni has quickly reached some fame among heavy metal listeners. If you love Manowar, you most likely dig Teräsbetoni, too. Their lyrics in Finnish are about metal, metal and metal. How much more metal you can get? On stage they fight in furs and masks for metal. How you can take them seriously when what you see on stage is more like a comedy at a summer theatre than a real heavy metal show. According the singer J. Ahola they still had a good battle today.
Although Suede is dead Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler still continue working together. Their new project called The Tears doesn't fill the tent, as Suede would have done in the old days, even though many are curious to see the Brits. Anderson still has the same manoeuvres as in the Suede times and The Tears' material doesn't differ much from Suede's on the first hearing. It's not bad, but boring enough to move to Rytmi-tent next door.
There Gåte from Norway play their extraordinary mix of Norwegian folk music and metal. The band's personal music style is very difficult to categorize. It reminds of Björk, Nordman and even Nightwish, but still Gåte aren't like any of them. Their cd is a must-buy.
NINE INCH NAILS
For many festival guests the only reason to attend Provinssirock is Nine Inch Nails. It is easy to tell that they've been waited for here for years as the NYT-tent starts to fill up about an hour before the show. The crowd is sweating and dehydrating even without hearing a single sound yet. Finally Wish explodes into the ears. NIN set about their task with an admirable intensity. Like any man approaching his middle age the band's mastermind/singer Trent Reznor has also gained a few new kilos, but it doesn't slow the speed a bit. The guys play splendidly. They let us hear a wonderful mix of new songs from “With Teeth” and old classics like “Terrible Lie”, “Closer” and “Reptile”. A real bonus is Joy Division cover “Dead Souls” from The Crow soundtrack. The only moment when the audience can catch some breath is during the masterpiece ballad “Hurt”. Reznor knows how to make a perfect show. Even though the guys don’t move much on the stage, there is a huge, blue EQ graph flashing behind them. So simple, but still impressive. Their first hit ever, “Head Like A Hole” ends the show and for the most people also the whole festival. Sorry, Ismo -it's time to go home - happy.