Jalometalli 2014 – Diamonds and Rain

Jalometalli Metal Music Festival – Raksila, Oulu – August 8–9, 2014

Having served as the arena for eight summers of noble Northern metal mania, the Club Teatria building inevitably fell under the demolition hammer in early 2014, forcing the festival to look for a new home. Luckily one was found slightly closer to the city center, as this year saw Jalometalli debut the sport-concentrated Ouluhalli area. The line-up had also been put together upholding the sterling standards we’ve grown to rely on – with the reunited Dark Angel shining as the brightest gem in the crown, next to stellar live acts such as King Diamond and Triptykon, as well as a fair amount of other solid metal matter – and so the second weekend of August was welcomed with the expectation for a fistful of killer gigs, enjoyed among the most passionate headbangers.

Friday

Our affordable early morning flight proved to be less of an issue than ever before, as the hotel personnel kindly let us into our room right after we had arrived in town, several hours before check-in. This gave us plenty of time to settle in, allowing us to get a sufficient amount of rest and both solid and liquid nourishment before making our way to the battlefield. The schedule had been again built in a way that left little time for slacking or sleeping in, as both days were set to start with established domestic quality that we weren’t planning on passing up.

The route to the new festival location was definitely less circuitous and cumbersome than in the case of Teatria, and the entrance to the area also went smoothly enough that we were well in position once Rotten Sound started pounding the afternoon away on the main stage. The set-up of two bigger stages and a small one remained, although the correspondence between the schedule and my personal taste led to me never even visiting the last mentioned. This time all of these were in open air, so the festival folk had no possibility to seek indoor warmth and comfort in the case of unfavorable phenomena in the climate. There was a fairly wide covered area for drinkers and minors alike with visibility to both main arenas, though, and at this point, the weather didn’t seem anything to be concerned about.

The Ostrobothnian veterans of fast music for slow people gave the festival a rapid start, grinding through a delightfully wide selection of material from classic early 90’s punky primitivity to the exhaustively intense bursts of the new millennium, delivered in its catchiest form on the songs off of the ’05 blasterpiece Exit. This kind of compact dose of extremity backed with prime musicianship is always an enjoyment to experience live, effectively shaking me into the psyched “let’s do this” festival mood already early on. Vocalist Keijo must’ve been content with their 3:30pm showtime as well, as it happened to be his birthday, which he was already starting to celebrate with a bottle of white wine.

Keijo’s on-stage praise for Speedtrap was heartwarming, but hardly needed in my case, as these outlaws have been in heavy rotation on my turntable for the past year or so, and have proven time and again that they’re able to bring on the same boundless force in a live setting as well. Highly energizing songs are supported with a headbangin’, guitar swingin’, heavy metal show that leaves no room for uneasy shoegazing among their ranks, with the whole band giving all they’ve got as an unified front, from riff-master Ville to recently joined 2nd guitarist Jaakko to temporary live bassist John. Frontman Jori is also a commanding figure, even displaying a certain level of arrogance in his crowd-inciting attitude, but when you’ve got material this powerful to back it up, be my guest.

Dark Angel had already reminded us of their existence during Speedtrap, as one could hear their drum soundcheck interfering even quite close to the front… I guess that’s the unavoidable downside of having both of the main stages outdoors relatively close to each other. The legendary Cali thrashers’ actual performance didn’t leave me with much complaints, though, but it took a bit of prowling to find a place where the sound was satisfactory. After some confusion over who was going to be behind the mic on Dark Angel’s reunion run, we had gotten the Leave Scars line-up, fronted by Ron Rinehart. The frantic Don Doty era albums are more to my liking, and made for the majority of the set, but Ron ripped through the mid 80’s material with respectable rabidity as well, leaving no doubt he was the right man for the job. Although Dark Angel were seemingly the highlight of the weekend for many a maniac, I perceived them more as an exceptionally enjoyable curiosity to cross off my ought-to-see list. Not to understate how wonderfully lacerating it felt to hear classics like “Death Is Certain (Life Is Not)” and “Merciless Death” live…

Another Californian crew High on Fire had finally made it to the southern parts of Finland for a round of club gigs the year before, and after witnessing their convincing Tavastia appearance, I welcomed them back with open arms. Strengthened with the grim groove of Celtic Frost and the unruly charm of Motörhead, this trio is one of the rare cases that have taught me stoner isn’t necessarily a curse word. The band proved that their live force isn’t dependent on the sweatifying intensity of a packed club, as their desert-dry groove reigned in the early evening air just as imposingly, adding up to another highly enjoyable dose of hellraising heaviness. As a climactic finale, High on Fire topped off their debut in these latitudes with the more melody-infused “Snakes for the Divine.”

Bringing Japan’s most notorious metal export Loudness to Finland for the first time in their over three-decade-long career was a heavily heroic deed from the Jalometalli folks, demonstrating pioneership and passion that is far beyond the run-of-the-mill offerings of commercially-minded festivals. Having only given occasional spins to the Hurricane Eyes LP that I scored for free while working at the Lohja reuse center back in the day, I wasn’t one to pound my fist in the front row, but the oriental veterans delivered an enthusiastic and entertaining show that flew by as smoothly as the golden stream of malt flowed down our throats.

Sacred Reich, then again, was one of the top targets of the day, having pretty much blown my socks off with their heartfelt thrash-bash on the Barge to Hell cruise in 2012, and with Porispere a few years back counting as the fellas’ only recent Finland visit, they were another relevant addition to this year’s Jalo roster. While the element of surprise was absent for me this time around, the oldheads put up a jolly good show nonetheless. With no reason for bewilderment nor disappointment, their set kept the emphasis on the twitchy ‘n’ catchy 90’s rhythms of The American Way, accompanied by the mandatory Surf Nicaragua excellence. We could’ve used a bit more Ignorance, though…

King Diamond playing Tuska had been one of the definite highlights of the 2013 Finnish festival summer, so bringing them back for a Northern re-edition was another feather in Jalometalli’s cap. And save for the excitement of seeing the band for the first time, the second one pretty much took the prize in every other regard, coming with a more intimate yet cozy atmosphere and an improved sound. The setlist hadn’t gone through many changes since the previous year, though, but a few more cuts from the new millennium were added in this time, and the 25th anniversary of Conspiracy was acknowledged with a bit more coverage of the album than usual. The horrific stage spectacle had some new twists as well, like live actress Jodi getting “Cremated,” but the classic song material and its prime execution remained the blazing core, equaling to a performance that hit the highest notes of the day – both figuratively and literally.

Putting Kuolemanlaakso as Friday’s last act on the secondary arena was a nice nod to them, considering that the same slot on the following night was to be occupied by Triptykon, who aren’t only one of the Finns’ most essential influences, but also connected to them through guitarist V. Santura’s studio involvement. While the graveyard shift was a good match with Kuolemanlaakso’s grievously creeping tunes, I didn’t feel too capable of immersing myself in them at this point anymore, and soon proceeded to march back to the hotel. A short-lived sauna afterparty at a friend’s semi-luxurious room upstairs followed, and not too long after, it was time to hit the sack.

Saturday

Happening to bunk in the same room with a beer connoisseur, the morning didn’t start with a store run to get another case of Pirkka, but with a visit to the terrace of the nearby Oluthuone Leskinen for a few rounds of classier and tastier brews (enjoyed with some cheese – fancy, eh?), which was a damn fine way to kick off the day. As hours flew by, it wasn’t too much later that we had to again start heading towards the festival grounds for Saturday’s first band Insomnium. These North Karelians have been on the outskirts of my radar for some years already, but the occasional live encounter has always reminded me that they haven’t lost their way, still delivering that comfortingly familiar cup of melodic melancholy that I’ll sip from on any given day.

Revered capital area bangers Ranger offered a stark contrast to this, minding no speed limits nor sparing any gas while racing through their batch of bold and frantic heavy metal assaults. While they’re already a band that can be relied on to raise hell even in a festival setting, there’s hardly a better locale for them on Finnish soil than Jalometalli. To avoid an OD, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats slowed it down again, lulling our brains with their doomy ‘n’ fuzzy psych-rock. The group’s somehow unattractive moniker and the surrounding hype had made me ignorantly skip them before, but after grabbing Mind Control off the library shelf prior to the fest, the album soon started living up to its name… and enforced with a more forceful live punch, we had ourselves one captivating performance, presenting something quite unlike any other name on the bill.

Continuing on original trails, German newcomers Mantar didn’t offer trippy atmospheres despite their sludgy tendencies, but gave us a primitive two-man beating. Consisting merely of vocalist/guitarist Hanno and drummer Erinc, the band’s stage arrangement was curiously unusual, with the drums being set up sideways on the right, and the two members facing each other most of the time. At this point the weather had taken a turn for the wetter, and only a handful of us spectators seemed to care enough to defy the slight rain and get closer. This didn’t seem to eat the drive of the duo, though, as they brought the material of their debut Death by Burning to life with unexpectedly impressive intensity. The album has its ups and downs, but on stage these guys were pure fire, culminating in its most scorching form in the finale “White Nights.”

With several years of silence in the release front behind them already, and even longer having passed since their previous visit to Finland, Samael weren’t an obvious addition to the festival fold, but definitely a welcome one. However, their early evening set felt more like a routine endeavor, not quite reaching that uplifting energy that has ingrained their previous gigs into my cortex as exceptional. Not that I didn’t get a kick out of listening to another set of those familiar quality tunes with a cold one in my grip, but I was prepared for more than that…

Kvelertak, on the other hand, again proved their predictable reliability, delivering a hefty dose of catchy songs and entertaining action. Time will tell whether any of their future albums will be able to contend with the self-titled debut, but as long as they’re able to more or less keep the course, and the ride’s this fun, I’ll gladly tag along. While the presence of a “trendier” act like Kvelertak among the predominantly old-school/underground roster of Jalometalli took me by surprise, I don’t mind the deck being shuffled a bit every once in a while, when it’s done with good taste.

Being another rerun from previous year’s Tuska, Testament had been nominated for Saturday’s headliner. Too bad they’ve never managed to rock my boat too heavily, and the clouds had finally quit fucking around, now pouring upon us with full force. Well, luckily I wouldn’t have been one to rush to the front anyway, and enjoying second-tier thrash from under the tent while it’s raining cats and dogs had its odd charm. Although the band didn’t let the unfavorable conditions bring their spirits down – or at least they were too professional to display their dismay – I bet all of us would’ve traded the wet misery for some sunshine in a whiff.

Triptykon had shook my mind and body with one of the most crushing gigs ever at Jalometalli 2010, and with a fresh new album in their pocket, it was more than appropriate for them to return. A mere 60-minute slot seemed like a crime, though, as even 90 had barely cut it the previous time. However, the horrendous weather made me sort of thankful for the inevitable ending, as it didn’t take more than a few minutes to get soaking wet in the apocalyptic downpour, and after that, there was even less of a point to abandon a good spot for a dry one further back. But hell, being mercilessly whipped by the rain did set a good tone for “Black Snow,” reminding us to be thankful that it was just water falling from the skies… once you get this North, you never know! Apparently forgetting about having performed “Messiah” already at FME 2011, Tom contemplated that this would’ve been their first time playing Hellhammer in Finland, but at least he expressed his slight doubts… “The Prolonging” closed the coffin lid in exhaustive ecstasy, leaving me in wonder of Tom G. Warrior’s genius – or how many artists in extreme metal can still be said to be in their prime after three decades?

On our way towards the hotel and the dry clothes that would await, the previous day’s wine-sipping birthday boy happened to stumble into our company in more than festive condition, slightly slowing down the journey with his compulsion to scream along to Craft’s “I Want to Commit Murder” while blasting it from portable speakers on the streets of Oulu… And eventually the change into dry clothes was postponed in favor of further wetting our whistles at Nuclear Nightclub. Way to go.

Miraculously enough, Saturday’s rainy mania hadn’t gotten us sick by the next morning, and with zero bands playing on Sunday, the weather was again kindly sunny and warm. Our return flight to the South wasn’t until the early evening, so we still had a day to kill in town, enjoying a few more quality beers, doing tape deals with a local friend, feasting on semi-freaky pancakes at Pannukakkutalo, and killing those last cans of Pirkka on the Kauppatori shore before heading to the airport. We’ve learned to cherish these cheap late Sunday flights, since they provide quite a relaxing way to finish off a hectic festival weekend.

All in all, Jalometalli 2014 was a weekend of several splendid performances with very few disappointments in the mix. While the new location had its downsides – like the soundcheck on one stage occasionally interfering with the show on the other – I found little to moan about apart from the weather. A few other shortcomings reached my ears, though, like the complete unavailability of coffee, and a food line that grew unreasonably long. Well, what can you expect when you have only one stand selling solid nourishment to a festival’s worth of hungry headbangers? However, I believe that an event like Jalometalli, having well over a decade of experience already, is able to learn from their mistakes and we’ll see an improved edition in the same surroundings next year. Until then, here’s plenty of fine metallic moments to look back to while waiting for next August.

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Photography: slideshow | individual band galleries
Jalometalli website

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