The bags were packed, the alarm clock set for an ungodly (or unsatanly?) hour: Jalometalli 2015 was awaiting metal heads to pilgrimage to the Northern Finnish town of Oulu on the weekend of August 7. After a chilly, underwhelming summer the weather was finally picking up, cracking the 20 °C mark on the increasingly frequent sunny days, and also the forecast for the Jalometalli weekend was promising.
The 4 a.m. wake-up call to catch the 7 a.m. flight was sweetened by a most beautiful morning, a few delicate clouds colored red by the first rays of sun, laying on the disappearing moon like a magickal veil – best conditions to get into festival mood. The plane should have been painted black and named Jalometalli, with bullet belts on the seats since already at the airport it seemed as if half the festival was gathering to take the same flight. Spirits were high, and people were excited even though tired. But nothing a few shots couldn’t fix later on. Already an hour later, the world was a different place. Oulu greeted us with autumnal weather, grey fog and clouds hanging deep, rain drizzling on disappointed faces.
A nap, second breakfast and a few first drinks later it was time to deal with the reality of the situation – it looked like rain capes and wellies were in order rather than sun glasses. But because hope dies last, and the forecast still promised sun by 5 p.m. it was time to defy the weather with a Jalometalli preparty, taking place on the lovely (and roofed!) terrace of local friends. Some summery drinks at least let the suns in our hearts shine even if the general outlook was still 50 shades of grey.
And behold, the sun did come out just in time when we were making our way to the festival area. After many years at Club Teatria and one year at Oulunhalli, Jalometalli had returned to its original stomping grounds this year and took place on the island of Kuusisaari where several other Oulu events have been taking place for years. The walk to the area is scenic, across the market square, over bridges, the swooshing river below, the island lined with trees. At this time of the afternoon everything was bathed in golden sunlight evoking memories of summer holidays in the Finnish countryside in a mökki (wooden cottage) spending the days relaxing, eating, swimming and enjoying the sauna. Well, if next to that cottage there would have been several stages on which riffs were shredded and the evening wind would have carried blast beats over a metal crowd in festival mood. The 2-day-tickets cost 98,50€ this year, food and beverage prices had remained on the same level at around 10€ for food and 7€ for a cider.
Hell were on at the main stage when we got to the festival and provided a nice background soundtrack to getting acquainted with the new area in which it was easy to get anywhere, though walking up to the third indoor stage hosted in a round wooden building took some steep steps uphill. I wondered how slippery the hill that led up to the main area and the indoor stage would get if the weather would have been seriously rainy but luckily I did not have to find out. And thanks to that hill, both outside stages had had a beautiful backdrop: The vast horizon lined with trees and the river glistening in between for the main stage, and Oulu’s skyline behind the second stage. On that stage, Satan were up next and some people were running towards the stage like raving loonies. I wondered if that was a Jalometalli thing as the same thing has happened several times the years before, and I had not noticed it at other festivals. But I’m all for showing your enthusiasm for a band, just as long as you don’t run anyone over.
Satan was in a mood for sun glasses and they were grooving from one song to the next. A decent crowd had gathered in front of the stage and hands were in the air with hardcore fans gathered in front of the stage. It was an easy going show, working out very nicely with the open air feeling though musically they didn’t really float my boat. Time to Die got the crowd cheering and the band was engaging with the audience so overall a fine show for fans, onlookers as well as the band it seemed.
With Wengele next, it was time to head inside and warm up a bit as the evening chill was setting in and check out the band. The energy was high on and off stage as the band was thrashing around and members of the audience had taken their shirts off (from what I saw it was only topless guys, no girls, sorry lads) and where mimicking helicopter head banging with the shirts in the air. The crowd really seemed to like the music and it was a good wake up call to be ready for the rest of the night. After that it was time for one of the personally most controversially anticipated band of the festival: Cradle of Filth – both as there were some pretty intense teenage memories connected to some of their songs and because the first time I had seen them a few years back at a festival in Switzerland they had been so spectacularly bad that I thought it just has to be better this time. They were never a band that was very close to my heart except for a few songs – they and especially Dani seemed to just get more laughable over the past years from very unflattering aesthetics to Dani feeling the need or at least saying yes to participating in a Noisey article commenting on the summer hits of 2015 (read the whole thing here). With some kind of disaster tourism-feeling, I still had to go watch them of course, and a lot of the people at Jalometalli were really excited and eager to see the band. The setting sun behind the main stage created a beautiful atmosphere that however might have been a bit contra productive to Cradle of Filth trying to evoke a dark and evil mood on stage. First off, they were not as bad as the last time I had seen them but not especially good either. Dani’s new look had something of a Samurai-Ninja-doll but I am grateful the shirt with the nipple cutouts is gone. And I really liked the looks and stage presence of keyboarder Lindsay Schoolcraft, playing a bent keyboard, appearing with a horned flower crown, sporting Black Milk Clothing’s Shredder Dress (and this of course has nothing to do with this dress being a personal favorite- go Sharkies!). Dani was entertaining the crowd, wondering why no one was drunk (I highly doubt that) or naked, and why there were no moomins hanging from the trees in the country of the midnight sun. Heading back to the beer area to make Dani happy by ensuring there were at least two slightly drunk people at the festival, we enjoyed the rest of the show with drinks, searching for tree moomins (didn’t find any, sorry to say). And in this festival mood filled air, songs like Nymphetamine sounded quite alright and brought up some teenage goth girl memories.
Time flew and the last band of the night was ready on the second stage: Obituary, always a force to be reckoned with. And they delivered: Though, powerful sounds that went deep, making themselves felt in your guts, blast beat thunderstorms that got people head banging – death metal at its best and a gig how gigs should be. They made long-time fans happy, and made some new fans with their energetic live show. Saxon closed the night on the main stage and it was a tough call where to go first as my recent musical obsession Alfahanne were playing on the indoor stage at the same time. But as I had just seen them in a hell of a black’n’roll show at Tuska Festival, I decided to opt for Saxon first who were clearly a crowd favorite, many people having waited all day to see them. The guys looked distinguished and cool on stage, and managed to capture the crowd with what I’d like to call the NWOBHM-gentlemen attitude. Maybe they could have rocked out a bit more, but the people didn’t care and went wild with songs like Battering Ram, Crusader and Princess of the Night. It was the perfect soundtrack to transition from daytime festivaling to a night time festival party. With still a little flicker of hope in my dark heart I made my way over to the inside stage just to catch a few seconds of Alfahanne’s last song and the mic being slammed on the floor for a rock’n’roll stage exit. Damn! But hopefully it won’t be too long til they are back on stage in Finland again, this time for more than 30 minutes. We drowned this disappointment with some more beers and Saxon providing the soundtrack before it was time for the final act of the night, saving the best for last: Jess and the Ancient Ones!
The inside stage was packed when Jess & the band got on, people were clapping – it was the perfect end to the first festival day: The magick of summer night’s combined with that of music. It was time to let the melodies, Jess’ voice and the groove take hold of you, to dance and dream, let your mind wander towards the stars in the night sky and beyond. Along with Jex Thoth, Jess and the Ancient Ones have become one of my favorite female fronted bands in the past years, and it was great to finally see them live again and listen to the vocals, melodies and over all sound paint an enthralling musical image that just swept me of my feet.
Saturday started out grey and rainy again, and with a head as heavy as the low hanging clouds it was a slow start into the second day of Jalometalli, helped along by some bubbly later in the afternoon. And again, once we made our way to the festival, the sun came out and created a summer festival atmosphere of the best kind. In this mood, Shining kicked of the musical part of the day for us on the main stage in front of a quite small crowd directly in front of the stage, but lots of people hanging out in the beer area. Niklas Kvarforth spotted a hospital style outfit with a white T-shirt and white bandages on his arms. The sound was nice except for the vocals being almost drowned out by the guitars during the clean parts of the first songs. Shining were, as almost always, nice but also – as in the past few years – having a more professional, practiced live show. This didn’t take away from the songs being great to hear once again, and it seemed that Shining had found some new grooviness on stage sound wise that packed a punch and got people in the front row moshing.
On the second stage, mighty Inquisition got in to position to hypnotize and mesmerize Jalometalli with their powerful sound. In front of a small crowd in the bright evening light fog and red lights turned the stage into a hellish sight, the lights with their honeycomb texture looking as if they were breeding larvae of evil, spotlights creating inverted crosses. Dagon was alternating between the two microphones, taking his signature low warrior stance, a dark silhouette in front of the misty stage with a stylish and simple black shirt, pants, and knee high boots combo. People couldn’t resist the siren call of the low, guttural vocals and the audience grew slowly as the performance picked up force and started to drag you into the pulsating, vibrating maelstrom that is Inquisition, devouring you whole. These two guys can do more than other bands with six people – an own entity, a vessel for these otherworldly sounds. Fists in the audience were up constantly, connecting with the energy that filled the air, at times dark, dulcet and enmeshing, at others harsh. Even though it is most likely impossible to ever reach the incredible heights of the one show in Nosturi that forever will remain as one of the most magickal, amazing and simply one of the best live concerts in my over 15 years of going to gigs, Inquisition are always a treat and this was another good one.
The evening continued deep and gloomy with Candlemass, people rushing to see them as Candlemass sent waves of energy and music across the festival area. There is not much more to say than the crowd really enjoyed the show, the sound was rich and Solitude was a personal highlight, hearing it in its original version after having loved Blodsrit’s cover for many years. Tribulation continued on the second stage. The Swedes filled in for Vallenfyre who had to cancel their show. The mic stand was decorated with scales and bones, and this time the stage was bathed in blue lights. The band rocked the stage with lots of attitude and cast a net of melancholia over the audience. Guitarist Jonathan Hultén was playing like a maniac, lost in the music. It took a while to warm up to them, and sitting in the beer area watching them, it should have been easy to have the music remain in the background but there was something about them, maybe their stage presence, maybe their sound or the rawness of Johannes Andersson’s vocals that kept on pulling my ears and eyes towards the stage, sneakily making its way towards my heart.
And then it was finally time for Dark Tranquility as the last act of the festival on the main stage. It had been years since I had listened to them and last seen them live, maybe even as much as a decade but I had fond memories of great songs and an enchanting live show. It seemed as if many shared my feelings of anticipation as they cheered in front of the stage. Kicking off with The Science of Noise the backdrop projection at first seemed a bit weird, almost like a bad lyrics video. If you don’t do more interesting, artistic stuff with projection (like e.g. Enslaved), in my opinion better leave it be. Luckily, this was the direction the projections were taking after a few songs but at first it just seemed unfitting of the otherwise instantly very energetic and compelling show, reconnecting me with memories and emotions of being a teenager just a few years into metal….luckily only good memories like the excitement of going to see a band for the first time were conjured up. Already the second song was one of these old favorites, White Noise/Black Silence. And out of some long forgotten corner of my brain, the lyrics to these old songs came back to me, turning most of the gig into a sing-and-dance-along-flashback of the best kind: great music on stage, great people and atmosphere around you, the Finnish summer night setting behind the stage on the river, the evening red creating the most beautiful backdrop, lining tree silhouettes. The music and the scenery were evoking just the right amount of summer’s and Jalometalli’s (as well as summer festival season 2015’s) end-melancholy to make the experience that much more intense and bittersweet. Delivering an amazing gig, Dark Tranquility continued to hit home with songs like ThereIn, and the band themselves seemed to have a blast playing as well. The audience was going along with it, allowing themselves to be enchanted by the music, the lights, the whole experience, moshing in front of the stage. Towards the end, the crowd didn’t have to twist the bands arm with the lame encore game, but instead Dark Tranquility just kept playing, dedicating Lethe to old school fan Ville, and ending on a high note with Final Resistance and Misery’s Crown.
The night ended again in front of the indoor stage: Hooded Menace were making sure to send the festival goers off enthralled in a cocoon of deep, heavy grooves. The wall of sound dragged you along, hitting you right where it hurts and weaved in emotional parts, not making any compromises. The vocals so low they crawled deep inside you, the whole music resonating throughout your body and soul. A worthy end to another fantastic Jalometalli – til the next time!
by Nina Ratavaara, Photos: Eija Mäkivuoti