The 12th Jalometalli festival took place on the weekend of August 8 and 9 as in previous years in the beautiful northern Finnish town of Oulu, about 500 kilometres from Helsinki. But for the first time the two day festival was held at the outside area of the indoor fair and sports arena Ouluhalli instead of Club Teatria as Club Teatria, where the festival has been taking place since 2006 is moving to new premises.
While I had been a bit sceptical how the new area would work out and sure I would miss the inside stage and toilets of Club Teatria dearly as they provided comfort in being able to sit inside and warm yourself up when the northern summer nights already got chilly enough to remind you about winter to come. But luckily at least this year the nights were still warm from the only slowly winding down heat wave that had held Finland in its grip the past weeks and the area turned out to be beautiful as well as functional. The distance of ca. 2 kilometres from Oulu centre was the same as to Teatria and with its trees and grass around the hall and parking space the festival atmosphere changed from the industrial setting at Club Teatria to a park picnic feeling outside Ouluhalli.
Otherwise, much stayed the same: a good mixture of local and international bands of various metal styles with more and lesser known names; ticket prices rangingfrom 70 € to 90€; and the festival sported three stages again: a main stage, a still quite big second stage and a small club stage. All stages were set outside, the two big ones opposite each other while the small third stage was set up to the side on a small patch of grass. The centre of the area was the massive tent where three beer areas where located so you could watch all the bands really well from there too as well as some benches for people that were not allowed into the beer areas. The club stage also had a small beer area just opposite. Close to the club stage were also the familiar merch desks and the food booth. The food area then also seemed to be the one thing that had gotten worse. There was just one small booth that only offered 3 dishes and no vegetarian option, not even French fries. The Finns were also deprived of their much loved coffee and muikut (fried vendace) and there was talk that the vendor had sold out all their produce that was calculated for the whole weekend already by Friday evening so they had to bring in more on Saturday. The food itself was decent and the menu items itself ok from chicken paella to a burger and bbq pork. But there was just not enough variety and the sausage booth that was added on Saturday did not help much. But knowing how well the festival is and has been otherwise organized, I am sure this will be improved next year.
Friday started off sunny and warm despite the forecast that promised unsteady weather with anything from sun to thunderstorms. It was perfect to enjoy a few drinks underneath the birches outside, rustling in the gentle summer breeze creating the perfect Finnish cliché picture with the white trees and green leaves contrasting with a blue sky. Rotten Sound greeted the festival goers with an energetic set on the main stage that could be heard well also outside the area but possibly because of the wind, the sound was a bit unbalanced depending where you stood or sat. Yet, the bass drum came through no matter what and all the little metal hearts started to beat to its rhythm, getting closer and closer to festival mood beat by beat.
A quite decent crowd had already made their way inside despite the air getting humid and sticky but with the impeccably set up beer areas it was just perfect to enjoy both the band and the summer feeling with a cold drink in hand. The only thing was that the portable toilets were all located outside the beer areas but maybe walking these few steps was a much needed break that prevented too bad hangovers for some. And having the inevitable smell of these toilets caught under a festival tent would be a much worse option. However, it seemed that sometimes the organizers did not manage to keep up and many toilets were lacking toilet paper towards the evening.
Speedtrap were first to rock the second stage.The gig started out with a cacophony of all instruments playing together that often marks the end of a gig but this time it was to catch everyone’s attention and make clear what kind of band was set to play here as the typical guitar melodies started piercing the noise mess. It seemed to work as throughout the first songs people slowly started to move to the stagebut kept a distance, though heads began nodding and hands found their way into the air. During these first songs one problem of the new area and set up became apparent: you could hear the sound check from the other stage while a bandwas playing which could be quite disruptive. Luckily the sound checks usually did not take too long but a few songs were always affected by that.
By the way, what is it with thrash or speed metal fan rushing towards the stage, through the standing audience as if there were no tomorrow? Several times during the festival a blur of vests, patches, hair, tight jeans and 80ies sneakers rushed past me as if speed metal also referred to the tempo of their movement to make it to the front of the stage once the first sounds could be heard. Either these metal heads are not good with keeping time or reading a schedule or once a guitar starts to be played an inner trigger is pushed that forces them to get these sneakers into the air and move their legs as fast as the tight jeans permit. Speedtrap seemed to enjoy playing even though the crowd stayed small and with this fun energy and the sun shining it felt like the perfect moment for the last summer festival. Neither the audience nor the guys on stage let their mood be disturbed by the drum soundcheck from the main stage but rather amped up their energy so that there was even air guitar played in the audience.
After a few songs it was time to speed over to the club stage to check out Beneath Under from Rovaniemi who had won this year’s band competition that had again been organized by ALE Ry (Arctic Live Entertainment Ry). With the small grass area the cute stage had a summery picnic feel to it. Also on the third stage you could hear the sound check and Speedtrap playing but the band put on a good show despite that and the full sunshine they had to play in with high energy and hair which they had lots of flying. Singer O-P alternated between clean vocals, high pitched screams and low growls through which he always managed to keep the melody going, also his talking voice had a nice low timbre. Only maybe his clean vocals might need some improvement still. For me, the keyboards did not work in all songs as they did not seem as organic and integrated at all times. Beneath Under gave the impression of a band that is hungry to play live but still might have some way to go with their music to find their unique sound. During the song I am awake, they created a nice dynamics when the keyboarder was also singing. When they played a new, almost psychedelic song that was heavy on keyboard they seemed to work perfectly, as an integral and essential part instead of a foreign body as in previous songs at times. The melodies of the song were alternated with deep growls and it worked perfectly with the summery park feeling of the stage.
Legendary Dark Angel managed to draw the biggest crowd so far on the main stage and there seemed to be good energy all around and the crowd was really into the band, shouting their name. They played a powerful set with a sound wall that just blasted you away with songs like Burning of Sodom. The dragging, pulsating rhythms alternating with the fast parts got the band to mosh and in lack of a better word the crowd was fist pumping and each songs was greeted by new cheers and singer Ron engaged the audience asking for backing vocals to which they cheerfully obliged. This gig certainly left many a smile behind on the festival goers’ faces.
From dark creatures it was on to fiery heights with High on Fire who seemed to be the perfect band after our traditional red wine drinking outside of the festival area and enjoying some people watching. The weather was perfect for a band like them with their stoner sound. There was not that much going on in the decent crowd in front of the stage but everyone just seemed to enjoy the moment and let themselves be lifted and twirled up into the air like a birch leave in the summer breeze by the music, towards the sun and happiness.
All the way from Japan Loudness were ready to rock the main stage and probably one of the most awaited bands of the weekend. With the first notes off the stage it was already clear that this was going to be a blast as they started off with Crazy Nights and everyone was singing, shouting along, jumping, and arms in the air. That´s how it should be – great melodies, seductive and grooving rhythms and a whole lot of energy in the music. The setting sun behind the stage created the perfect scenery for the spirited show and with this good mood and setting, their melodies and powerful sound the inner rock chick came out and it was time to submerge yourself into the music and shake your hair and body. As it was not just superficial rock melodies and attitude but real, in your face, energy and music the gig did not get boring after the first part but it kept rocking on with songs like Got to be Strong. Hands were in the air and vocalist Minoru looked stylish with his top hat. The vocals were not equally good at all times but the overall experience of the gig was not tinted by that. One could just float in the experience: ladies in bikini tops dancing, sun setting, guys with long hair – what more do you need for a perfect transition from festival day to evening?
Sacred Reich were also a clear crowd favorite that day and they got the crowd going in front of the stage and in the beer area with their good sound and powerful riffs. They played favorites such as The American Way, Surf Nicaragua and Death Squad. Their deep and groovy rhythm worked and their cover of the Black Sabbath song War Pigs was another highlight. It was fun to watch the band and the crowd enjoying themselves. There was no craziness even in the circle pit but rather just a prevailing sense of enjoyment and soaking in every moment of this summer festival and the music, and it was almost impossible to not nod your head or tap your foot.
King Diamond was the last act on the main stage that day. The backdrop could not have been set more perfectly as the last rays of sun colored the sky behind the stage orange and pink, worthy of a king. The set up on stage was the same as at Tuska Festival 2013 with the metal fence, the inverted cross and all the other elements. The line-up had changed since then however as Hal Patino had left the band just shortly before this show and some not very dignified back and forth of statements and accusations had been shot back and forth between Hal and the king. Pontus Egberg jumped in and the king asked the crowd to greet the new bassist. The show seemed more energetic than at Tuska the year before so it was nice to see and hear that all again and classics such as Come to the Sabbath brought the crowd to cheer. The combination of the music, the lighting and the show created a great atmosphere.
To end the night, Kuolemanlaakso were the perfect last band of the day. The mood was great despite not that many people watching the show and again the not yet totally dark night sky added some extra atmosphere to the already very intense and distinctive show on stage, Usva´s extremely long dreads flying in circles. The gig was very passionate and of a dark beauty that fills every fibre of your body with deep, melancholic joy. It allowed you to settle into the memories and feeling of the day with all its powerful music and shows and guided you towards the darkness of the night while shining a dim, silvery blue light on the magical festival mood landscape you were wandering and floating through, highlighting its obscure beauty. One of the best bands of the festival for sure!
Saturday looked like it would bring the weather the forecast had already predicted for Friday: a grey day that already sported a few rain drops while walking towards the area to begin the day with Finnish all-time favorites Insomnium. Upon my arrival a quite big crowd had already made it out of their beds and to the area and the hangovers didn’t even seem too bad as hands were in the air. The beautiful melodies could be heard from afar, luring you to get into festival mood and over any tiredness while the commanding music kicked your ass awake.
For those that were still feeling the last night in their bones, Ranger made sure to wake you with a blast. Maybe also the few splashes of cold rain in the face helped and if you opened your eyes you could see that the band had coordinated their outfits at least when it came to the pants: from tight blue jeans short shorts to extra tight carrot blue jeans the guys kept it authentic and showed of their poses and grimaces. And the crowd seemed to like it – they moshed and it seems the metal dance pleased the weather gods as the rain stopped at least for a while.
As it is with festivals, chances that bands you want to see play at the same time are high so it was time to take the upbeat energy from Ranger’s show over to the third stage to dive right into bloody, grimy black metal with Behexen. The area in front of the stage was quite crowded and the rain was back but the musical ritual on stage was not affected by that and ceremony master Hoath Torog celebrated with music, bones, and incense. Hands were raised in the sign of the horned dark lord and the energy could be felt with songs like Temple of the Silent Curses. Behexen are masters in finding the right balance between engaging and keeping their infernal cool on stage as well as in their music with the mix of fast, energetic and slow and dynamic parts. This gig was no exception and the crowd that stayed put the whole time and started head banging. Guitarist Wraath seemed to be especially into it this time, barely restraining himself, shouting the lyrics along with Hoath Torog and cutting grimaces with his besmirched corpse paint. A black high light in the otherwise not that black metal heavy line-up this year.
With the rain getting heavier and the air cooler Uncle Acid and the Dead Beats made sure no one started to feel chilly with their warm, groovy sound. A small crowd went in front of the stage despite the rain but a bigger group watched them from the tent and the beer areas. Not having heard much of the band, I was more than positively surprised by their captivating and enthralling sound full of melodies, power and groove. The various elements played together perfectly and created a musical landscape that sent you wandering around a fascinating scenery that felt instantly comforting and known while also offering new, surprising discoveries at every turn of the way so that you whished it would never end; the sky, flora and fauna of this musical dreamland painted in vivid, pulsating colours.
The path led from this colourful panorama to the darker but none the less intense or grooving realms of German Mantar. The rain continued when they took the second stage with a special set up: the drums were located on the right hand side and the mic a bit to the left in front of a red/white flag of the city of Bremen. Singer and guitarist Hanno often stood also slightly sideways so that it seemed as if he was answering drummer Erinc with his vocals. Voice and drums interlocked in a conversation that ranged from harmony to angry fighting and shouting. Hanno’s stage performance underlined this as he was there, thin and shirtless, contorting his body into strange positions sometimes to go with the music, sometimes fighting as if the music was an animal, a predator that tried to lure and tease him only to envelope, intrude, swallow and absorb him. It was too bad the weather still sucked so only few people stood close to the stage in the rain as it was quite a gig and amazing to experience what two people can create on stage.
The rain stopped at least partly during Samael’s gig. Having seen them over 10 years ago with a more electronical, experimental show I was curious to see how my fellow Swiss would perform this time. First thing I noticed was that the sound was quite low, with the vocals quite hard to hear at times. But the crowd did not seem to matter and the energy on stage was good. Singer Vorph showed up in a sleeveless, long coat over wide pants and kept on marching over the stage, underlining the rhythmic songs with his over exaggerated movements. Spreading from Mas shaking his hair towards the other band members the moshing took over the stage. The whole gig was definitely more metal than last time with old classics such as Into the Pentagram that Vorph announced as the heaviest and darkest song ever. The sound continued to be a bit suboptimal depending where you stood but people started dancing and throwing their hands into the air regardless and once Vorph put his guitar away towards the end of the gig he joined into the dancing people got even more engaged. It could have been the theme song for Saturday but while the actual rain did not much to enhance the mood, hearing Samael playing Rain brought back many teenage-metal-head-in-Switzerland- memories for me and it just rocked!
The weather took a turn for the worse once Kvelertak took the second stage and rain was pouring down. The stage was crowded with the band and their Orange equipment and the energy was palpable from the get go despite the downpour. Singer Erlend entered with a mask in form of a stuffed owl with glowing eyes through which he could even sing and the crowd that held out in the rain instantly started waving their arms and clapping along and the people in the beer tent were nodding their heads. The piercing melodies wove their web around the band, meandered over to the crowd and grabbed hold of the whole festival and the beats followed these paths shortly after and took the evening under their wings. The owl headpiece must have instilled some animalistic energy in Erlend as he ragged on stage shirtless like there was no tomorrow and the crowd let themselves get infected by this intensity.Unfortunately, Testament’s sound check was disturbing some songs again but despite that Kvelertak got good applause and they played all their most well-known songs and guided the crowd towards the evening and into party mood.
This energy was needed as the rain got stronger once metal heavy weights Testament took the main stage as the last band of the festival. They did their usual thing in front of a massive backdrop, delivering loud, dynamic thrash metal and an equally dynamic show in front of a very appreciative audience. The fists rose up not only during Rise Up.
And then it was finally time for Triptykon, my other fellow countrymen. It had not seemed possible but the rain poured down even harder but despite that as soon as Tom and his band took to the stage there was instant atmosphere and Tom’s charisma penetrated the heavy wall of rain and the drunken minds of the crowd so that some people defied the rain in front of the stage and many more gathered on the edge of the tent to witness this performance. The white logo on the back drop with the red and blue lights in the darkness enhanced by the rain and wind created a cold, powerful atmosphere and the silhouettes on stage were surrounded by those of the horned hands in the air, Tom a black figure in the middle with his blond hair coming out from under his cap creating a halo effect. When they played Goetia Tom’s voice and the lyrics pierced through every layer of rain, tired- and tipsiness and grabbed you with a harsh, simple, but elegantly powerful magic that did not seduce you but rather just appeared all around you like lightning and thunder can on a clear sky in the Swiss alps. Suddenly, without warning such a thunderstorm is there with all the fury and wrath, its rolling thunder echoing on the age old stone walls, being thrown back from the deep valleys frightening and fascinating you with its raw, unforgiving power and energy that electrifies the air and fills you with excitement and fear as you, little human, stand there in the archaic landscape exposed to nature’s forces. And as the rain, Triptykon’s gig swept over Jalometalli and people kept submerging themselves to the downpour, going to drink up each and every bit of sound and vigour that washed over the audience from the stage, and returned drenched to the bones but energized and happy. Bass player Vanja was thrashing her arm up and down in the rhythm of the songs like there was no tomorrow, as if it was a biomechanical part of her body that had its own mind like H.R. Giger’s creatures, exuding restrained, precise power. As things slowed down a bit with Alter of Deceit so did the rain but Triptykon’s mighty performance rang through the night and the last post-festival drinks long after they had left the stage and despite the weather it marked the perfect ending to a fantastic festival summer.
Nina Ratavaara Photos: Eija Mäkivuoti