Festival Report
Nummirock 2012
NUMMIROCK METAL FESTIVAL Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki June 21-23, 2012

Black text: Ossi Turpeinen
Maroon text: Lady Enslain

THURSDAY

Again it begins, with that uplifting cracking sound of the day’s first can of Leguana being opened, sometime around noon on midsummer Thursday.  For some of the more eager campers, though, it started nearly a week earlier upon arriving to the campground after Provinssirock.  Our car ride to Nummijärvi was shared with some of our good buddies (whom, like many of the best dudes we know, we first encountered at Nummirock.)  Thankfully, these guys possess some of the world’s most refined and sophisticated tastes in music, so we were treated to a specially prepared mix tape consisting of classics by heroes like Cyndi Lauper, Quiet Riot, and other makers of Casio-pop sensations!  Graciously, they switched over to some Overkill during the trip’s final lap.

As we enjoyed the sounds from the 80’s during our five hour drive, we also dwelled on the line-up we were about to face for the weekend.  Band-wise, our hopes for the festival were not so high, with this year promising to be a haven for Radio Rockers and Sakara wreckers.  Where were the innovative band choices that would’ve made this festival stand out from the plethora of stale local rock fests?  Considering, though, the previous year’s quantitatively unwelcoming crowd reception to notable-yet-not-so-radio-friendly foreign acts like Voivod, I can see why this festival would move away from booking exciting or exclusive bands, and just stick to what attracts the lowest common denominator fanbase.  Well, after arriving to an amply stuffed lot on the lakeside, and hearing beforehand that tickets were showing “yellow” on Tiketti’s website, it became apparent that they had calculated quite well with their bookings.

Among the festival’s goers were generally two different types of people: the normal Nummirock crowd, who are happy to drop a Benjamin for the chance to camp out with friends and fellow metal bros and sis’s, with no intention of leaving the campsite for more than 2-3 bands, if that, and then those who fatten Sakara’s wallets and vote for everything Stam1na has ever done, including their shitty-ass toothscrew album cover, at Finnish Metal Awards, every goddamn year. [Not hatin’ on Stam1na here, but give another band a chance, you unimaginative voters!] What was more or less missing this year, though, were the oldheads, and the dedicated metal underground, who felt that none of the year’s offerings could justify supporting the festival.  Although we find ourselves more in that third camp, I just can’t imagine leaving Nummirock out of our festival summer, as every trip there has been a thing of legends.  So, this time, we made sure to come bright and early, in time to catch the very first band of the pre-fest.

Bob Malmström @ Nummirock

The finely dressed and seemingly wealthy young men of Bob Malmström got the honor of opening this year’s Nummirock with their borgarcore, which, for those uninitiated to their elite art, stands for hardcore punk with a capitalist Finnish-Swedish attitude.  As imaginative as their humorous concept is, I don’t see it carrying them very far, as seeing them for the second time, it already felt like the joke is starting to wear out.  Vocalist Carolus Aminoff’s raspy raging is surely an enjoyment to the ears, but apart from that and his persistently Swedish speeches in between the songs, there isn’t much to rave about when it comes to Bob’s live performance.  And musically, it just seems too formally tight and clean-cut – but maybe that’s what borgarcore is all about?  Oh well, I’m just another jealous and underprivileged dumb Finn, anyway.

In some twisted way, we were delighted by the fact that there were so many missable bands at the fest this year, with “missable” meaning that we’ve already seen them a dozen times before, and will get many more chances to see these homegrown acts at a more gratifying club gig during the colder seasons.  This gave us more opportunity to chill with our peeps, explore neighboring camps, and drink through our supply of soon-to-be-warm beers.  On the other hand, we realized during the course of the festival that many of these bands would actually be quite enjoyable to watch this time, and Profane Omen with their good looks and slick riffs would’ve been one of these.  Still, on the other other hand (the congenitally malformed crack-baby hand), knowing that Rytmihäiriö was due to play just three hours after Bob was done, and still having a nearly full bottle of Gambina to destroy, we decided that the Profane boys will have to wait until next time. 

This turned out to be a lousy decision, as it seems that nine straight hours of drinking, followed by the speedy downing of a bottle of G, may not always be the ideal formula for surmacore preparation.  I didn’t learn this lesson until I awoke the next morning, uttering “I don’t remember what songs Rytmis played, were they good?” and then stumbling out of the tent to the look of shame and empathy from fellow campmates, as well as the smashed remnants of a bottle with ruby red labels strewn beside our tent.  As it turns out, my over-anxious anticipation of the night’s headliner threw me into hysteria when I noticed my precious Gambina was empty, and this rage was resolved in the wrong arena.  Yep, we unceremoniously missed Rytmihäiriö.  But I suspect the band would be proud of my G-induced comafrenzy, nonetheless.  Below, evidence from the crime scene.  I won’t be surprised if we find a fingerprint match to Virtuaali-Seppo

Rytmihäiriö performing live (somewhere else) @ Nummirock

FRIDAY:

Ghoul Patrol kicked off our Friday on the Inferno stage in the early afternoon, blasting out their tight death metal mixed with a hellrockin’ groove.  Ghoul Patrol @ NummirockThese guys already convinced me at this year’s FME, but the relaxed beach atmosphere surely suited them better than the big bleak Cable Factory hall.  From the murderously catchy title track of the band to the good ol’ “Parasite City”, Ghoul Patrol vomited out a set I didn’t want to walk away from, even when most of the material was completely unfamiliar.  However, at times the songs did sound like your average deathrashing modern metal more than I would’ve liked, which made me think that maybe they should sink even deeper into those southern swamps, and fetch some more of the lazy groove into the mix.  I’m also glad to see that the semi-new vocalist Oku has fused into being a part of the Patrol nicely – now looking like a creepy mothertrucker – and it was a pleasure to hear his intense screams and growls again, as I’ve stopped holding my breath for a new Murdershock album…

Our first acquaintance with Helsinki locals Brymir did not give a stellar impression.  When they played Gloria in early 2010, I wrote them off as a juvenile derivation of the financially viable “pagan metal” scene; one that was trying so hard to be all things, that they failed to present a unified front, both with their awkward just-out-of-army hair and unripened image, and their lack of clear musical direction [and that fucking beanie the keyboardist was wearing!   Still, you could tell that the raw ingredients were there - just perhaps undercooked - and apparently so did Spinefarm,~Ossi].Brymir @ Nummirock who promptly scooped these boys up into their cookie-cutter roster.   Shoot two years into the future, and they’ve shaped up convincingly.  The hair has grown for proper stage thrashing, the musky make-up and dingy clothes reflect a uniform bleakness, and the songs have adopted a darker, more defining identity.  Not only did they play their dark, distinctly Finnish-sounding, powerfolk tightly, but they presented it like pros, with most of the frontmen having improved profoundly on their stage moves.  Not all of the songs were killers, though, so further style refinement could still be aimed for on future records.  There’s no doubt this band is headed for great things, but the question is whether that praise will be coming from their oversaturated homeland, or in the Finland-loving Americas.

Altars of Destruction @ Nummirock

Altars of Destruction, also known as A.O.D., were one of the most delighting bookings of this year’s Nummirock, being not only old(school) and underground, but also really good and relevant even after 25 years since their conception.  The Foster’s stage offered an intimate enough setting for their thrashing tunes, with a handful of us headbanging maniacs in the front, and a fair amount of other observers around, partly thanks to them being local, for sure.  Tales of old like the ominous “Altars of Destruction” and the insanely destructive “Suicide…Are You Fucking Insane?” truly showed how the cookie crumbles, and the rest of the song bunch wasn’t dragging much behind.  But damn, those old-looking A.O.D. shirts that the guitarists were wearing were way cooler than the newbie one I have…  Do I need a time machine to get one?

Swedesters In Mourning had already grumped through Finland a few years ago, but they didn’t firmly catch my ear until I was handed their Spinefarm debut recently.  The little seamonster called The Weight of Oceans had managed In Mourning @ Nummirock to stretch its tentacles into my brain and take enough of a grip that our Friday afternoon was starting to become very busy, as we had to rush to the beach right after A.O.D.  Luckily, this time In Mourning’s bassist had chosen not to wear his bright red pants, and the band was actually looking – and sounding – like something to be taken seriously.  Progressive yet heavy pieces of melancholy like the catchy album-opener “Colossus” seemed very much at home in the forested surroundings, and the band seemed to enjoy their time as well, not looking out-of-place jolly, but being Swedishly energized and photogenic.

Fear Factory/Dino @ Nummirock

Finally it was time for a band fully deserving of the headliner slot, both for their reliable (though unstable) longevity and their diverse (if sometimes questionable) catalog of hits.  With only a handful of really attractive names on the bill, Fear Factory certainly had the advantage over most in terms of anticipation level, largely due to the rarity of encountering them in Finland.  And personally, having seen them in the glorious days before it required reunification to have Burton and Dino perform together, I expected them to be as energetic, engaging and edgecrushing as they once were.  Launching right into the forceful Obsolete opener “Shock,” the fear mongers delivered precisely the jolt of fresh current I was waiting for, and I immediately started wishing I was back in New York where the crowd would’ve instantly erupted into a relentless, suffocating mosh pit.

Fear Factory/Burton @ Nummirock

As the set continued, however, they advanced towards that iffy era from Digimortal to Mechanize that I’d hoped they’d abandoned.  It was albums like Digimortal, albums without that dynamic balance of blasting force and vulnerability to the imposing machine, albums in which they replaced their edge with added reliance on soulless effects, jumpy rhythms and rappy choruses, that had made me re-evaluate the band’s significance so many years ago.  At about this point in the set, I was able to forget about my frenzied reminiscing of childhood classics, and focus on the finer details of the performance, about which there was clearly something off.  Sadly, the problem lied in precisely the element that drew me towards the band nearly 20 years ago: Burton’s voice.  While he’s never been quite pitch perfect, live or on record, I have never, ever heard such off-key singing from such a high profile band.  It was distracting.  It was upsetting.  It was sometimes even face-palming.  I’m hoping it was an isolated incident – a bad day, faulty stage gear, or something else excusable – because otherwise the gig was quite enjoyable.  And the latter part of the set brought (unsurprising) delights from Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture that almost made me forget about the atrocious singing.  I would’ve forgiven all faults if they’d have just played “Scumgrief” or “Pisschrist,” but that may have been pushing it.  I’ll just have to withhold final judgment until I can see them again at a proper venue.

De Lirium’s Order @ Nummirock

De Lirium’s Order were another welcome addition to the fold of smaller domestic names, although I had already managed to see the band hit the stage thrice after primus motor Juha had gathered their shit together after some years of silence.  It was another case of vicious and technical death/thrash, with the renewed line-up offering a nice amount of instrumental porn on stage, and the new material continuing the delirious legacy with honor, at least as long as you can ignore the fact that not all of the lyrics are about serial killers anymore, har har  The continuous dictatorship of the new songs in the set is a bit unfortunate, though, as there’d be a plethora of morbid masterpieces to showcase from the dark past as well, but at least the glorious “The Sunrise” was again unleashed to chill and snap spines with its depiction of the Monster of the Andes.

Stam1na @ Nummirock

After seeing Stam1na conquer the 2008 festival season eight times, we’ve managed to miss them at almost every turn since – usually in the battle of conflicting gigs of more “importance,” or alternatively, the battle with alcohol.  Let’s face it, within the festival scene, they’ve become ubiquitous to the point of paradoxical invisibility.  When they’re added to a festival line-up, there’s no surprise; no reaction.  Of course they’re going to play there.  And of course they’re going to play at the next festival we go to, also.  So, “if we miss them tonight, we can just see them next time” has become the normative response, and frees us to check out the bands performing on the smaller stages, or just pass out in a booze-medicated stupor.  Added to this was the fact that Viimeinen Atlantis just seemed like such a departure from the contagious spirit of previous releases, and I wasn’t feelin’ it.

Feeling it was finally time to break this cycle of remiss, we watched from the sidelines as Stam1na played another unique and personal gig in haphazard costumage, maniacally dominating the stage with their characteristic spinning head-whipping.  Although I’d like to say they’ve grown a lot as performers in half a decade, I wouldn’t say they’ve learned new tricks, Stam1na @ Nummirockbut rather that they’ve gained an air of self-possessed confidence and absolute artistic freedom.   Along with this gain, though, they may have lost that youthful innocence that made their earlier performances somehow more charming and real.  Musically, the set was concentrated heavily on the newly released Nocebo, which is, to me, a return to the bitingly observant attitude and sarcastically playful sound of earlier years, and suits the live environment just as magically.  Surprises for the night included feats with BtD’s Saukkonen and Mokoma’s Saikkonen, a special juhannus song for the occasion, and Hyrde’s escapade into the crowd, but the best part of the gig was just getting to hear their captivating tunes in an environment filled with positive – or positively drunk – energy.

SATURDAY:

Mikko Herranen @ Nummirock

Saturday began extremely slothfully, with very few of us interested enough in any of the offerings to leave the “comfort” of our camp without force.  Since I had no force left in me after the previous night’s Fear Factory/Stam1na headbanging biathlon, I headed by my lonesome to check out “the blind guy,” Mikko Herranen, who, several months earlier, had a remarkably brave performance on The Voice of Finland just before being controversially voted off.  What I – and presumably most others – didn’t realize before hearing about his Nummirock booking, was that this newfound tabloid celeb had been a contributor to the scene for many years prior, having supplied his voice to bands like Misery Inc., and done studio work for numerous bands.  Respect.  Although I had zero familiarity with his solo project, for which he apparently composed and recorded all the music himself, I was quite impressed.  But, as with (almost) any solo project, it did have that noticeable single-sightedness (pun only somewhat intended,) that can usually be cured with multiple eyes (you know, like bifocals?  ok, I’ll stop now.) For me the songs were just a bit too tame and notably radio-friendly.  But he performed passionately and intensely, and his voice conquered all odds.  Still, would rather see him joining the ranks of another worthy band, instead.

Before the Dawn @ Nummirock

While Viikate’s appearance persuaded many of our campmates to leave the cozy camp – for the first and only time of the day – we used the opportunity to stroll to the camping site’s other side, to swap liquors and rumors with groups of friends we only get to see at Nummirock.  It wasn’t until Before the Dawn’s set at the beach stage that we headed back for more music, and only long enough to photograph the new line-up.  Now, I don’t know how these regulars get to play Nummi two years back-to-back, since I can think of a fistful of metal bands I’d be more excited to see once in a while.  And honestly, I didn’t expect much from these guys now that Lars is gone, leaving no one left to sing those mesmerizing clean parts, or to do the English välispiikit.  But instead, we ended up staying for the whole set, and it was the best I’ve heard from them in years!  Some of the weaker elements from recent albums seem to have been shed, leaving them with solid, consistent heavy melodic metal, devoid of distractions.  And the darkness was still there, perhaps even moreso than usual, or at least enough to overshadow the evening sun.  Based on this performance alone, these guys jumped right back onto my radar.

Carnalation @ Nummirock

Carnalation had already played at Nummi two years ago as one of the Demosetä winners, but this time these semi-locals had earned a legitimate spot, having gotten their debut album out on Spinefarm earlier in the year.  The fivesome had also gathered quite a lot more stage experience ever since, and if our previous encounter had left me unconvinced, this time the state of affairs turned out to be quite different.  The band performed their crushing modern death metal with the raging energy it needed, and seemed to receive a deservedly enthusiastic response from the late evening crowd as well.

Mokoma @ Nummirock

If Friday evening had shaped up to be quite a band binge for us, Saturday had very little of interest to offer, so I figured I might as well end the fest band-wise by going to check out how Mokoma are doing these days.  I used to have the first albums of their thrashier era in heavy rotation, but had mostly lost interest in later times, and hadn’t bothered to watch them live at all in several years, although there would’ve been several opportunities.

Luckily, I made an exception this time, as at least the beginning of the set was packed with those dearly familiar old tunes like the mid-tempo catcher “Kasvot kohti itää” and the stormingly aggressive “Poltetun maan taktiikkaa.”  These South Karelians were still as enthusiastically entertaining performers as I remembered, and Mr. Saikkonen also seemed a bit, eh, sharper than during his little guest appearance at Stam1na’s gig the night before.  The newer tracks that continued the set didn’t generate much excitement in me, but there was a good reason to stick around for a while, as Mokoma had the most awesome spot of the day in the schedule, playing on the Inferno stage right around midnight.  The surrounding woods, the lake, and the sun lingering in the horizon, painting the whole landscape in gorgeous colors, always create a magical atmosphere that one can only gaze at in childlike admiration, and that I haven’t seen topped at any other festival.  Not to forget some naked manly beauty storming into the lake, of course…

Mokoma crowd at sundown @ Nummirock

things that only happen @ Nummirock

So, another great weekend was had, at least as an overall experience.  But upon leaving, I was left feeling a bit concerned about whether this festival’s going to withstand many more years of lower than anticipated attendance and greater competition.  Yes, there were more lost souls here than previous years, but if that means that Stam1na and Before the Dawn have to get booked every single year just to drag bodies into the Ostrobothnian wilderness, then I’m not so sure I’ll be willing to stand behind it much longer.  And as more and more regulars and friends are dropping off of the will-call list, the justification for relegating this fest to the backburner just increases.  As much as I enjoy some down time between bands at a fest, and take these opportunities liberally when presented, there still needs to be something drawing me there in the first place.  Fear Factory was a strong, solid pick, but it wasn’t enough for those who chose to stay behind this year.  We need more.  I need more.  And, while we’re at it, I also need more Gambina, ‘cause my bottle appears to be empty again…

~ Ossi Turpeinen & Lady Enslain; photos by Lady Enslain


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