Festival Report
Nummirock 2011
NUMMIROCK METAL FESTIVAL Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki June 23-25, 2011

THURSDAY

Summer 2011 marked the 25th anniversary of Nummirock, and was my 5th midsummer celebration along the shores of Nummijärvi.  Although transporting our asses to Southern Ostrobothnia by Heavy Metal Tampere’s bus had become almost a tradition, this time we were able to catch a ride with some of our campmates, who we had gotten to know a few years ago – at Nummirock, of course.  Our traveling quartet arrived to our traditional lake-side spot early Thursday evening, where previous years’ familiar faces from Lohja and Turku, along with some new ones, had already started putting up their tents and spreading their tarps to protect our party from the rain that had dominated the forecasts.

Deathchain @ Nummirock

Once we had gotten through the fuss of setting up, sitting down and settling in to the relaxing festival vibe was definitely in order.  Thanks to the comfort of our camp, the opening act MyGrain was destined to be skipped, so another frequent festival guest Deathchain got to launch our Nummi band-wise on the Foster’s Live stage that was to be the sole arena for Thursday’s battles.  These kalakukko deathrashers are an experienced live band and always worth a peek, but a few-song peek was indeed all I cared to give them this time, as after the catchy yet a bit unexciting opener “Panzer Holocaust,” they moved on to newer material that just seemed too stiff and dull for my restless mood.  I would’ve rather seen Kaitsu front Deathbound instead, and they would’ve actually been a compelling addition onto the bill.

Ruoja/Ajattara @ Nummirock

Ajattara’s show in the dark of the night was the final and most interesting of Thursday’s warm-up offerings.  It has been delightful to see the band return to releasing interesting and relevant albums after years of more mediocre material, and their gigs have also gotten a significant boost of energy, thanks to Ruoja’s increasingly hostile and weird stage presence.  The new album-opener “Kunnes Taivas meidät erottaa” impressed with its unusually fast (on Ajattara’s standards) blastings and instantly catchy chorus, while the dearest old cut was definitely the eerie “Yhdeksäs” off of Itse, with two female guests providing some backing chants.  Following the tracklist of the debut, the band accompanied it with “Verivalta,” which they never seem to get tired of playing live.  Ajattara also got an unexpected chance to play the main stage the following afternoon, as their label mates Turmion Kätilöt had to cancel after their bassist was hospitalized due to serious heart problems.


FRIDAY

While most of the bands that got to the festival through the Demosetä voting sounded either boringly average and unoriginal, or had more or less elements that made me never want to hear their songs again, Path of Mine were interesting enough to lure me to the festival area for the first time on Friday.  These young dudes from Hämeenlinna had touted their EP effectively enough at Finnish Metal Expo that I ended up going home with it, and was pleasantly surprised to find four songs of skilled and quite personal-sounding melodic death metal behind the uninteresting album cover, weird band name and ugly logo.  On stage the band seemed a bit reserved and inexperienced, but the dominantly mid-tempo songs with their atmospheric guitar melodies were easy to enjoy, and kept me in their grip for the whole gig.  Their cover choice of Medeia’s “Cold Embrace” can’t be blamed for being a too obvious one, but compared to their own material, it was a miss, as Path of Mine’s version didn’t nearly reach the cold and crushing feel of the original.

Coincidentally, up next was Keijo Niinimaa raging on the Inferno Stage by the lake – not with Medeia, though, but among the ranks of Rotten Sound, who I had my mind set on catching this time, as I had been catching sleep during their Nummi show four years earlier. As always, they presented a tight batch of grinding that was decent enough not to walk away from, but a slight disappointment when compared to the intense beating I had witnessed them give at Turku’s Klubi some months before.  A few classic tunes from Murderworks and Exit formed the cream of the crop, which made the newer material seem a bit faceless and forgettable in comparison, or maybe I’ve just been a lazy listener with their more recent albums…

Voivod @ Nummirock

Voivod were without a doubt the act that I was most excited to see at this year’s Nummirock, since their Finnish live debut at Jalometalli two years ago had left a good impression, yet surely hadn’t lived up to its full potential due to my unfamiliarity with a lot of their material at the time.  Having gotten to know the albums much better since then, this time seeing these inventive Canadian veterans was an experience on a whole different level.  Naturally, the tame day-time atmosphere or intensity couldn’t compare to hundreds of fans raging and cheering in the dark night of Oulu, but the band didn’t let the unacceptably under-crowded setting bring them down, and were seemingly enjoying their time on the stage as much as I was mine in the audience.  The set was mostly relying on the late 80’s albums, without forgetting the thrash fury of the early days, and a few more surprising cuts were heard in the form of the vivid “The Prow” off of Angel Rat and the bleak “Forlorn” from the Forrest era.Voivod @ Nummirock  Although a set leaning towards the classic era of the band was surely a delight for those who swear in the name of the earlier albums, I wouldn’t have minded a few more tastings of their newer, more Motörhead-esque material.

There were several interesting bands to look forward to, but Voivod were my number one target, and debatably the only actually innovative booking at this year’s midsummer feast.  However, at an event like Nummirock that seems to be mostly concentrated on the modern and mainstream, this kind of cult act was a bit out of place, as was evident from the sadly small amount of spectators.  While they might have drawn some oldheads to attend if this had been the only Finnish appearance during their visit, after their Helsinki show was announced to take place the day before, the last bit of exclusiveness went down the drain, leaving only the fans that would’ve probably come to Nummirock anyway, like myself.  Too bad, since this probably doesn’t encourage the festival heads to do more brave and interesting band picks like this in the future.

Legion of the Damned have been almost a boringly frequent visitor, but as I remembered them to be a solid live act based on my previous encounter some years back, I managed to gather the strength to drag my ass from the camping area to the Inferno Stage.  As on record, these Dutch deathrashers didn’t offer anything really special, but their punishing tunes balancing between modern and old-school were an enjoyment to the ears nevertheless, and kept me in their grip for the whole duration of the set.  Especially songs like “Werewolf Corpse” and “Legion of the Damned” have such irresistible catchiness to them that you’ll be screaming along to the idiot-proof choruses even if you have never heard them before.

Cavus @ Nummirock

Closing the night were young Finnish black metal horde Cavus, who seem to have gotten a recording deal and some good warm-up spots in quite a short amount of time.  While this isn’t that surprising considering the promise their debut EP showed, full-length Fester and Putrefy didn’t manage to grasp me nearly as firmly, and despite the favorably dark setting and the band’s authentically filthy appearance, the overall impression of the gig was left dull as well.  Some catchier riffs and groovy parts caused approving nods, but not much else stuck out from Cavus’ steady flow of sonic filth that just seemed too crude for its own evil, and after a few songs it was time to continue the night on the campgrounds.


SATURDAY


Eläkeläiset @ Nummirock What happens when Eläkeläiset play @ Nummirock

After a few Demosetä winners had kicked off the last festival day, the main stage was uncorked by our beloved humppa masters Eläkeläiset, who seemed like the perfect musical equivalent to “hair of the dog”.  While a lot of people had gathered in front of the stage, I settled for sensing the humppa spirit on the grass in the drinking area.  Although the brisk humppa hits provided a good soundtrack for hanging out with liquid delights, which the band seemed to have no shortage of on the stage either, I was struck by a realization of how unfamiliar I am with a lot of Eläkeläiset’s material.  Some more education in the mysteries of humppa is clearly needed in this household…

The Haunted @ Nummirock

Having just done a club tour in Finland (including a show in Seinäjoki as well), The Haunted seemed like another unnecessary re-run, but one that I didn’t mind, since their fresh-sounding new album Unseen, as well as the kick-ass show at Tavastia, had managed to re-strenghten my interest in these Gothenburgers’ undertakings.  Despite my preference for Marco Aro’s rawer roars, Peter Dolving still handles the clean vocals way better, and the versatility of his voice is particularly highlighted on their latest material.  He also makes for an unforgettable frontman with his increasingly hobo-like appearance and entertaining rants that resemble stand-up comedy more than your average song introductions.  This early evening set wasn’t fully satisfying in its length, but had different eras of the band represented well enough, apart from neglecting the debut, and instead of the expected “Hate Song,” they chose “Bury Your Dead” as their final shot.

I’ve never listened to Accept that much, and my familiarity with or interest in Mr. Dirkschneider’s current heavy metal machine U.D.O. has been even slimmer, but they had a place on this year’s short must-see list as one of the few bright spots in Saturday’s line-up.  UDO @ NummirockThe majority of the songs played were naturally from the U.D.O. catalog, and therefore almost entirely unfamiliar, but luckily a fistful of Accept hits were thrown in as well, most importantly my favorite, the shameless “Son of a Bitch.”  However, all of the tunes were performed with such consistent energy and spirit – not least present in Udo’s remarkably powerful voice – that the gig was thoroughly captivating and easy to enjoy.  As a closing, the band delivered the bombastic fist-and-headbang-inducing classics “Metal Heart” and “Balls to the Wall”, the latter of which was responsible for the soundtrack of the rest of the festival in my head…  U.D.O. were definitely among the unexpected highlights of the festival, and exactly what would be needed more among the ball-less modern flavors-of-the-week in the coming years: timeless heavy metal thunder!

Although Nummirock offered plenty of good times again this year, and had its moments band-wise as well, I don’t find it very surprising that the festival didn’t reach its audience target.  The lousy weather forecast (that didn’t turn out to be that true) must’ve affected someone’s decision to skip the fest, but the line-up also seemed quite unexciting as a whole when compared to previous years.  While Nummi regulars like us can’t imagine spending their midsummer any other way, and those who have a wide taste in metal are always bound to find something interesting on the bill, most people won’t move their ass just to see a bunch of standard domestic acts and a couple of regular foreign visitors.  Of course camping, hanging out and meeting new maniacs and the same old ones is an essential part of the festival, as there’s a uniquely crazy atmosphere that can’t be found at any other Finnish metal festival, or anywhere else for that matter.  This is especially well manifested in moments like when three random troubadours, armed with an acoustic guitar and a bottle of Gambina, bump into your camp and start singing “I live on a gay mountain”.

~ Ossi Turpeinen; photos by Lady Enslain


Photo Slideshow : Nummirock Metal Festival - 2011

www.enslain.net