in Tampere, Finland, June 9-11, 2005

Thursday June 9, 2005

Sauna Open Air Festival sure did live up to it’s name this year with three steamingly hot days, and an even hotter line up to increase the steam. So far Sauna Open Air has been unknown to most, concentrating on homegrown talent. Trying on bigger boots and making a go for the title of the “Metal Festival of the Year” was a bold move, which proved to be a successful one. Looks like the main Metal festival in Finland, Tuska, has finally gotten a serious rival.

From Thursday to Saturday, the Metal Fan Army in their black t-shirts took over the town of Tampere, and the streets of the town were swarming with all kinds of Metal shirts. On the site, Slayer shirts dominated on Thursday. For the rest of the days, it did not seem to matter what shirt you wore as long as it was black. This probably went a long way to hammer home the name of the festival for each punter.

Finnish Thrash band Mokoma got the honor of being the first band on main stage, and were no doubt excited to be on the same stage as their heroes Slayer were going to be later on the same night. Despite being the underground Metal darlings of the nation, Mokoma has still kept their workmanlike approach to playing, which in layman’s terms means working their butts off, which they did once again. Singer Marko Annala amused fans with his remark that the best reaction their song has ever got was the yawn a girl in the front gave.

Pain was the next band on main stage. Their set started strong enough with “The World Coming Down.” This time their line up had stayed the same, so they still had the female guitar and bass player to pretty up the stage as seen on their previous tour. Singer Peter was his usual intense self and kept prancing around the stage dressed in a white shirt and black tie. “Same Old Song” got a strong show of fists in the air, but the biggest cheer still went to Peter’s “Stay tuned for Slayer” comment.

The hefty punch of eager punters already waiting for Slayer to come up on stage broke into a loud cheer when the Slayer banners went up an hour before their set. Meanwhile Norther on the side stage sounded positively interesting, but the climb up the hill did not look inviting … just looking up the hill was enough to give one the feeling of vertigo. The side stage was positioned on top of hill in such a way that the audience had to stand on the downhill side, which looked and felt a bit comical.

The most awaited performer of the day was undoubtedly Slayer. The loud Slayer chant started ten minutes before the show time. The mighty set of Marshall amps and the two Slayer banners on stage gave sort of a strict and mighty vibe, and increased the tension and anticipation within the crowd. Slayer was in good form and the fans got what they came to see. Araya was showing his twisted sense of humour by introducing “Necrophobic” as a love song for the older women, the six feet under in the ground kind. Still, as usual, Araya was a courteous host leaving the pacing for guitarist King. King stormed the stage like a angry bulldozer, stopping occasionally in front of the amps next to Lombardo, who seemed to give his all to his playing since he collapsed on the stage for a breather after the show but before trashing his drum set down from the drum riser.

Friday June 10, 2005

Friday’s theme seemed to be Melodic Metal. Kotipelto started the day and played a strong but a bit one dimensional set. Kotipelto seemed a bit looser on stage than he usually is with his main band Stratovarius. “Hunting High And Low” was introduced as a bit of a cover. The biggest reaction was still saved for the moment when Kotipelto announced the special guests for the song “Black Diamond,” introducing his daytime band members Jens Johansson and Timo Tolkki. This announcement brought punters running back to the front of the stage from the beer tent where they had slowly migrated. All seemed to be well in the Stratovarious camp again as both Timo’s hugged each other. Tolkki and Jens showed off by playing a small jam where the guitar and keys seemed to be talking; answering each other back and forth… an excellent ending for the Kotipelto show.

Machine Men on the side stage played a strong set. Their skinhead bassist looked a bit out of place in this Melodic Metal band, but their strong and charismatic vocalist surely impressed many.

Sonata Arctica played their usual set. This time singer Kakko was back to his boyish jokes again. The receiving end of his jokes were mainly the bass and keyboard players. The name of the festival also inspired a couple of humorous comments from him. The rest of the time Kakko was seen running around the stage, playing air guitar and even sitting on the drum riser playing air drums. The set ended with the customary “Gage” and the humorous “Vodka Song.” As a side note, both Sonata and Kotipelto were kind enough to attend a meet and greet event held on side of main stage.

Dio has visited these shores a plenty in recent years. Just like last year, his annual visit took place at a festival. Despite turning into road hounds, the band has not lost their drive, and quite contrary seemed to be in excellent condition. Both Graig and Rudy have found their place, and were putting on a good show. Rudy Sarzo’s playing is a pleasure to both watch and listen. He even showcased his ability to play the bass from both the down and upside of the bass neck, which looked really wicked. Even keyboardist Scott Warren really got into the set, and was seen doing dance spins during “We Rock.” An excellent set by the band, which caused the smiles to be as broad in the audience as there were on stage. Hands down the most uplifting performance of the whole festival.

Saturday June 11, 2005

Surprisingly the honor of the most happening set went to Roctum, who gave their all and then some by opening the last day of the festival on the small side stage. Roctum play sort of Sleazey/Punked-Up Glam Rock, not far from early Crüe. Their vocalist is a lot to take in, but he sure does do his best to work up the crowd, and despite his size, does not stand still for even a moment. The band has got the DIY attitude covered and they had by far the most creative stage set-up. There was biker gear, whips, balloons, rockets in the guitar and bass necks, and even plenty of toilet paper thrown over the crowd. After “Punisher of Love,” there was even a martial artist doing a lot of kickboxing on stage. So the most eventful set of the festival was definitely the Roctum show.

Teräsbetoni continued on with the not so serious theme on the main stage. They are hailed as the Finnish Manowar, and despite the obvious tongue-in-cheek factor, they still hold the right amount of pride, not to mention pure talent to validate their sudden rise in the Finnish Metal charts. True Metal, brotherhood, and truth are words they aired a lot. Despite the humorous feel, Teräsbetoni is still a capable bunch. Their main singer seemed to be having some difficulties with his speech and kept mixing up his words. The sharing of vocal duties between the main singer, who is also their bass player, and their guitar player, brings a nice versatility to the vocals. Their singer’s comment that “There is a tiny Metal singer inside every one” seemed to be accurate, at least among all that had gathered on the festival site, but there undoubtedly weren’t many who could have topped those occasional high-pitched vocals of Teräsbetoni … but after their set, you sure did feel like giving it a try.

Sentenced are doing their farewell funeral tour, and will be put to rest permanently after this summer. To accommodate this, they have a real coffin as a part of their stage set-up on this tour. Sentenced seemed to be as stoic as they usually are, with only their singer Laihia moving around. As expected, Laihia couldn’t keep the melancholia and a touch of humor emerged out of his comments, but he did his best by covering his comments with a hefty dose of irony. He advised the crowd to drown their sorrows in alcohol, which according to Laihia, keeps families together and one’s pecker hard. Still, it didn’t hit home that there are only handful of gigs left before they quit for good and the mourning begins.

Megadeth closed the festival with their close to two-hour set. Not the most talkative, it took Mustaine close to thirty minutes to address the crowd and state that he wasn’t going to talk much but instead was going to play more… and boy, did he let that guitar talk. You couldn’t see much of Dave’s face since it was mostly covered with his long hair, but you could surely watch those fast hands of his speeding all over his guitar, proving that he indeed had recovered from his hand injury. The set really took off with the closing of “Symphony of Destruction,” “Sweating Bullets,” “Tornado of Souls,” and the main set ending “Peace Sells.” “Angry Again,” “Train of Consequences,” and “Holy Wars” were saved for the encore, which only left the crowd wanting more, and Dave did promise to come back in the not too distant future.

All in all, Sauna Open Air had all that a great evening in sauna needs: a steamy atmosphere, lots of cool beverages, and great company. There even was a real sauna at the site for all the sauna maniacs wishing to sweat off some steam the authentic sauna way. Still, there was no getting away from sweating no matter what, thanks to the steamingly hot weather. Sweating was the order of the day as much on stage as off, but with such great music and good performances, a little sweat was a small price to pay for such a great time. See ya next year at Sauna!


  • Metal-Katie

    Katie was a reviewer and interviewer here at Metal Express Radio. She claims to have been born a Metalhead. At least she's been one as far as she can remember. She loves Metal music and she's ever so happy to see generation after another founding its charm. She's always interested in hearing new Metal bands and reading about them and their antics. She lives and breathes Metal, or at least her alter ego does.

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