The sixth edition of Sauna Open Air kicked off this year's Finnish festival season in Tampere's Eteläpuisto, just two hundred kilometres North of the capital Helsinki.
Sauna is a cosy and relatively small city festival that lacks a camping area of his own, often causing a little accomodation problem for those who come out of town.
Friday, June 5th
In contrast to the festival's name, the first day wasn't steaming hot but the chilly weather and rain plagued the atmosphere.
Finnish legends Amorphis are still on the top of their game with their latest, well-received studio album "Skyforger". Fronted by Tom Joutsen and his five-feet braids, Amorphis were first to go on the main stage to deliver a solid set featuring all their latest hit tracks. Is nearly 20 years in the making an excuse for a complete lack of energy on live shows? Probably not, but the music did speak for itself.
Booking Duff MacKagan's Loaded was a miss as nobody really seemed to know his solo work, but Hanoi Rocks (RIP) singer Michael Monroe's guest appearance towards the end of the set got the crowd going, as he really took the stage under his command.
Meshuggah's unfortunate cancellation was quickly forgotten, as their replacement Finnish Medeia blew the roof off the 2nd stage. Their aggressive death metal hybrid is a little catchier than frontman Keijo Niinimaa's other band, Finnish grinders Rotten Sound, yet still almost as in-your-face.
Apocalyptica closed the day with their tiresome set, still packed with Metallica songs. Maybe it would be about time to leave them behind and see if they could actually get something done on their own? Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica took care of the vocal duties in some of the songs, but couldn't do much to save a sinking ship with his rally driver English.
Saturday, June 6th
No sun but also no rain today. What a relief!
A whirlwind, though, was seen as Profane Omen opened the day on the second stage. Their heavily Pantera influenced sound has a bit of that modern twist in there which is not exactly to my liking, but the sheer genuine joy of playing you can sense in their highly energetic performance is always a treat to watch.
The Sauna organization must have gone nearly bankrupt for booking Mötley Crüe to headline the festival, but it did pay off as the second day was completely sold out. Eteläpuisto didn't get to witness any pyros or other fancy things, but just a pure heavy metal Mötley Crüe show.
Vince Neil was singing better than on some of their recent live releases, and the whole band is still working like a dream. Their catalogue features some of the best songs ever made for a festival atmosphere, and no one could have walked home disappointed, despite the fact that killer songs like "Too Young To Fall In Love" didn't fit to the surprisingly short, barely 75 minute set.
Sunday, June 7th
Karhula's metal patrol Omnium Gatherum has, obviously very much tongue-in-cheek, called themselves Adult Oriented Death Metal for quite a while now. Up until their latest studio album "The Redshift", it did actually make some sense, as their approach to the melodic death metal didn't use to be so traditional but a little twisted and progressive.
Jukka Pelkonen took over the band's vocal duties with his basic growl voice and weak clean vocals in 2006 bringing the band's sound a little closer to the endless sea of bands going for the Gothenburg sound, but the band's lead axeman Markus Vanhala remains Finland's most underrated guitarist and a phenomenal performer. While not necessarily the fastest of them all out there, he's most definitely got the chops AND the creativity.
Stratovarius played one of their first shows in Finland with new generation guitar virtuoso Matias Kupiainen who made the shredding look so easy that it looked like he would've not minded to play songs like "Speed of Light" blindfolded with double the tempo and his hands tied behind his back.
Despite slight nervousness I was sensing, the whole band looked to really enjoy performing which hasn't been the case in ages.It seems to be the best for both parties that Timo Tolkki and Strato went separate ways after all the drama they've gone through.
Nightwish closed the festival with their standard "love it or hate it" set with little surprises. Anette has improved her singing a lot from the first concerts she did and has got more confident with her stage presence, too. Nightwish took well advantage of their flashy pyrotechnics and bombs and closed the festival with good papers despite the fact that Marco forgot the lyrics to "The Islander" and they had to stop the song and start it all over again.
Sauna is a very well organized festival and I strongly recommend it for any foreigners as Tampere is a small, fun city with a wide selection of metal bars that make up for the bands' having to stop playing already at 22 every night. The Ryanair base in Tampere and good train connections from both Helsinki and Turku make the city very easy to reach, but make sure you book your hotel well in time!