As hopeless as it seemed at one point we did end up having ourselves a summer festival season 2021 here in Finland. Granted, many of the planned festivals were cancelled, and the ones that did happen suffered a striking lack of foreign artists. But one cannot be too picky in these times, and the fact that an event like Kuopiorock with an overall attendance just shy of 30,000 could be organized to begin with is a widely welcomed and desperately needed sign that things are, indeed, moving towards normalcy.
Kuopiorock 2021, celebrated over the last weekend of July, boasted a line-up consisting of high-profile Finnish acts such as Nightwish, Beast In Black, Haloo Helsinki, Battle Beast, Amorphis and Sonata Arctica, as well as a couple of prominent guests from abroad by the names of Within Temptation and Amaranthe. The festival provided also a chance for lesser-known bands to gain experience and discover new fans with an entire stage devoted to local up and coming rock and metal groups throughout the three-day event.
Thursday, the first day of the festival, opened with a bang as killer acts such as Battle Beast, Amorphis, Stam1na and Within Temptation rocked the two mainstages of the stadium in Väinölänniemi. Thursday also suffered from the worst weather of the weekend with heavy and even heavier rain showering the festival audience throughout the day. For me the festival started properly with Softcore Suicide, a hard rock band from Turku who serenaded the audience with their tight riffing. Founded in 2014 the band is currently hard at work completing the release of their debut album from which they also played material at Kuopiorock. Softcore Suicide delivers a style of music in which hard rock, metal and AOR mix in an oddly successful way. The crowd showed encouraging signs of enthusiasm, and I suspect the impression the group made on me will stay with me for a long time to come.
Stam1na launched the festivities on Thursday on the main stage. The group released their latest studio album, “Novus Ordo Mundi”, last February, and much of the setlist consisted of material from the record. Despite the heavy rain during the concert the circle pit in the audience grew at one point so fierce that security guards thought it best to observe the situation closely for any possible misconduct. The band suffered some technical difficulties during which the musicians entertained the crowd with some of their original jokes. It is quite a testimony to the band’s attractive pull that one staff member in front of the stage could clearly be seen singing along to many of the songs beneath a face mask.
After Stam1na it was time for Battle Beast to conquer the main stage at quarter past nine in the evening. During the show’s introduction some in the audience shouted for Beast In Black, which inspired loud bursts of laughter here and there. Those in the know regarding the history of these two bands, the joke was either aptly funny or childishly stupid depending on everyone’s personal convictions. In any case, Battle Beast began their set on time and delivered a potent one-hour asskicking. The band were at their best with songs representing the debut album of the current line-up such as “Familiar Hell“, “Bastard Son of Odin” and the always enticing “Beyond the Burning Skies“. It was quite striking to me how much better material from “Bringer of Pain” worked in a live setting compared to the band’s newer stuff from two years ago even though songs like “Eden”, “Endless Summer” and “No More Hollywood Endings” are quite good, as well. Bassist Eero Sipilä teased a new Battle Beast album to be coming in the near future, so it will be interesting to see if the band can reach or even surpass the quality of “Bringer of Pain”.
Thursday was capped off by Finnish metal legends Amorphis on K-Caara stage. Prior to the band’s summer festival gigs the band released a short teaser on Facebook promising something special for their fans. In Kuopiorock “something special” turned out to be “Drowned Maid” and “Silent Waters“, two tracks that the band hasn’t played that much in recent years. Amorphis has been one of the most actively touring Finnish bands for years, and their confident and precise performance in Kuopiorock despite the long break was a distinct hallmark of their professionalism. Angry death metal beat by the name of “The Four Wise Ones“, epically soaring “Bad Blood” and their eternal number one hit “House of Sleep” were the highlights in the set. Like many other bands Amorphis has been working on new music during the pandemic, which pretty much ruined the band’s 30th anniversary celebrations. For that reason alone one hopes for the next chapter to be that much more successful and rewarding.
One of the very few international guests of the festival, Within Temptation served as the closing act of the first day. Sharon den Adel, the group’s undisputedly stellar front woman, made a dramatic entrance carrying a large white flag. What followed was well over an hour’s worth of pop-laced Dutch symphonic metal mastery. In the second song the Finnish crowd got to hear a very familiar singing voice as den Adel performed “Paradise (What About Us?” as a duetto with Tarja Turunen, though sadly only via background tape. This was the band’s first show in front of a live audience in almost two years, and den Adel showed her appreciation for the occasion by thanking the crowd profusely. The crowd was lavished by some of the most beloved Within Temptation songs such as “Faster“, “Our Solemn Hour” and “Stand My Ground“. To balance the greatest hits the crowd got to witness “Never-Ending Story“, which hasn’t been performed live since 2015. The show was supported by gigantic video screens in the background, which provided great visuals to enhance the music. Within Temptation’s concert, and the entire festival day in general, reminded me of the normal, saner times before Covid-19. Despite the lousy weather I walked home a happy camper for being enveloped in these hopeful thoughts at the end of the night.
Text: Ossi Kumpula
Photos: AJ Johansson