The Music Festival Wizard team has landed on the hallowed grounds of the famous Tuska Festival in Helsinki, Finland. One of the largest urban metal festivals in the world, Tuska’s dedicated metal heads have kept this fest a fan favorite for over two decades. Taking place on the grounds of a former power plant under a sun that never seems to set, this three-day festival lovingly embraces the dark side of music.
While indie rock may be my preferred genre of music, metal festivals like Tuska are making the argument that I need to spend less time with hipsters and more time headbanging. The lively and engaged crowd along with the photographer-friendly antics of the bands made this fest one of my top choices of the festival season so far.
Table Of Contents
Running the Numbers
Dates: June 30-July 2, 2023
Attendance: 21,000 per day est.
MFW Beer Index: €8.42 ($9.45) per pint
MFW French Fry Index: €6.00
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 28C/12C (82F/53F)
Reusable Cups? No
Free Water Stations? Yes
The Suvilahti Event Center, a former gas and power plant, makes for a unique festival spot. The onsite buildings are put to use as bars, vendor areas, and even one of the four stages. Crowds are split between the open-air Inferno stage and the covered Tent Stage, while nearly everyone shows up at the Main Stage for the headliners each night.
Metal. Metal. Metal. No filling out your lineup poster with DJs. Tuska is a festival of bands playing from start to finish. One nice touch is that most sets were about the same length throughout the day and started at the same time so I constantly didn’t have to check the schedule. There is an overlap between the Tent and Inferno stages so you will have to make some hard decisions, but the two spots are close enough and sets long enough (roughly an hour) that it’s possible to split your time.
They may look a bit frightening to outsiders, but one of the little secrets of festing is that metal fans are some of the friendliest folks on the scene. Sure, they may crash into you like a freight train during a “wall of death”, but they are also the first ones to pick you up and make sure you are okay afterward. Having been around for 20 years, Tuska boasts a slightly older crowd and while it is predominately Finnish, you’ll also find a lot of South Americans and Swedes at the fest. Organizers announced the three-day sold-out attendance at 63,000.
Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them
- The Hu
- Electric Callboy
- Arch Enemy
- Motionless in White
- Butcher Babies
- In Flames
- Lorna Shore
- While She Sleeps
Festival MVP: Ghost
Not being deep into the metal community, I was blissfully unaware that genre elitists seem to despise Grammy-winning Ghost mocking it as pop-metal. But hey, a dude dressed like a vampire bat playing against a backdrop of a creepy church is exactly what I was looking for when I came to a metal festival in Finland, so well done.
Most Surprising: The Hu
If you ever wondered what black folk metal from Mongolia sounds like, The Hu is here to show what it’s all about. Mixing traditional instruments and throat singing with harder music produces something unworldly and endlessly interesting.
Most Energetic: Jinjer
Tatiana Shmaylyuk, the singer of the Ukranian metalcore band Jinjer, is about as dynamic as it gets when it comes to a live performance.
Ready to Party: Electric Callboy
Kicking off their set with a confetti blast into the face of the crowd, Eskimo Callboy had the tent dancing like a ninja in short order. Lots of unicorns along with lots of fun.
Most Wizard: Finntroll
There was theatrics galore on display at Tuska, but Finntroll takes the top spot for the most wizard of the fest. The self-proclaimed “Troll Horde” hails from Sweden and plays a mix of black and folk metal.
DINOSAUR! DINOSAUR! DINOSAUR!
Clutch frontman Neil Fallon stopped the show to start laughing at a giant inflatable crowd-surfing dinosaur which led to the crowd chanting dinosaur for a full 30 seconds and then lifting one brave metalhead to ride the beast. Did it make any sense? No. Was it hilarious? Yes.
Show Me Those Horns
If you point a camera at a metal fan, you will get horns.
Most Metal Fan
Even the staging is into the scene!
Bang Your Head
Oh, there was hair.
Welcome to Hel
Fun fact about Helsinki – this coal-burning plant next to the venue was shut down in April as Helsinki wants to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
I Have Notes…
C’mon, Hell-sinki is right there!
T-Shirt of the Weekend
Pure. Fucking. Metal.
What’s the weather like? Hope for the sun, plan for rain. Friday was sunny and perfect weather, but the next two days saw sporadic rains throughout the event. Because it’s next to the sea, Helsinki sees quickly changing weather, although that also means rain showers can be over in short order.
What are the prime hours for music? Hours vary by day, but in general, if you showed up from 5 in the afternoon to midnight, you would see the bulk of the bands.
Where did you sleep? I slept at a nearby Holiday Inn (€90/night) about 20 minutes away from the expo area. As Tuska takes place right in Helsinki, there is no shortage of lodging options to fit your budget.
How do you get there? For me, the bus was the ideal option, but there’s also a metro stop at the mall next to the entrance of the venue. All three nights, I ducked out before the end of the show so didn’t run into any issues with crowds, and local transit was kept open longer to accommodate the festival hours.
If you are looking to dip your toe into the Scandinavian metal festival scene, then I can’t recommend Tuska enough. I walked away with a half-dozen new fest recommendations along with a bunch of new music to check out. From the organization to the lineup to the logistics, Tuska has catapulted into my list of favorite fests. Tuska returns to Suvilahti June 28-30, 2024. See you next year!