No Satan in Turku, No Satan Anywhere
Fragments of hazy memories of a weekend past. It all seems like a dream now, was I ever there, were things ever so certain? Another world, another lifetime, another life, are these images that run through my mind even my own? I don’t believe it, my entire existence has been cowering in a pothole from a virus that has ravaged the world. Surviving, never thriving. The dream of a life where enjoyment and fulfillment meant something torments me. Perhaps I can purify myself by transmitting them to you. And if I will not have freedom, we shall share this suffering.
It’s unusually warm for early March, at least inside the massive building that houses a school, a kindergarten and the library I’ve recently entered into a contract with. Another 8 hours of filling and emptying these shelves of books, checking them, preparing them to be shipped to another library in another city and filling the paperwork, are coming to an end. I check my clock. For once, I haven’t accidentally stayed overtime. Not that I could afford it today either, I’ve got less than 10 minutes between getting off work and having to get on a bus if I am to have any chance of catching my train to the
hallowed cursed city of Turku, a city so beloved by all who refuse to inhabit it that it’s literally known as Suomen persereikä, the arse perforation of Finland. Should it then be a coincidence that it contains a burgeoning metal scene? I think not.
Once, the festival fitted with the name Turku Saatanalle had its home in the unusual environment of Restaurang Kåren, an (beautiful as it was) abnormal venue. Its long history of metal gigs came to an abrupt end recently, as its new, conservative Christian management’s views clashed furiously with the image of the festival, black metal on a larger scale and the perceived image and content of metal music as a whole. Just like any normal, adult person would do, they decided to sabotage the event they had signed on to by breaking their contract only days before it was to be held. Against all odds, a replacement venue was found in Logomo 3, but it was always known it could not have been a permanent solution to the housing problem, and so, this year, a new venue was sought once more.
As this cursed, ramshackle chain of carts, poorly attached to each other, shaking with each driven inch, propels me towards a city, approximately 170 kilometers (damn your inches, damn them) from whence I came and departed, I cannot help but to utter under my breath, into the frothy mug of ale, barely for my companion to hear, who the hell thought it was a good idea to arrange a metal festival at a horse racetrack? Stripped of it’s status as a city festival, requiring special arrangements for additional bus lines to get from the city to the outskirts that house the track, it will in the very least maintain it’s status as a different festival experience by virtue of it’s venue alone. And in that I should take solace, so I convince myself.
I reserve little time for lounging out at the hotel, for the vanity ritual of changing clothes. Wearing the same, crusty undergarments three days in a row truly gives you a feeling like none other. I did not arrive at the venue early enough to witness the first act, and in fact I believe Malum is nearing the end of their set as as well. Their black metal doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd, but it’s dependable, and allows for a cautious, careful transition into the gig mood. A better choice than a direct jump into the psychosis, I would wager, though I have come to prefer the latter over the years.
Their membership dressed in a wide variety of garments, each recognizably drawing from the officially sanctioned black metal dress code, but from a different angle: one in a faint corpse paint, another drowned in blood, third hooded and gowned and the vocalist adorned in spikes from head to heel. Their attention to the visual elements of the show has always been the main draw for myself, even though I would not describe the actual performance as lively, and thus I’ve never quite wrapped my head around the randomness of their uniforms, whether it is, in fact, intentional or not. The stage lies decorated with a massive iron-wrought pentagram in the middle, adorned with bones and a skull, and for the two songs that I manage to catch, inspecting this visual stimulation proved sufficient, but now, as the figures disappear from the stage into the shadows, I feel parched with thirst, as if dying.
Continuing in the path of visual stimulation, from the very first glance Mephorash seems set on being the most impressive band of the weekend. Hooded in colour-coded robes, string-instrumentalists at both sides, and the drummer in the back wearing black, while the central trio clad in red, white & blue like any patriotic… Swedish(?) band would. With altar-tables, orthodox-priest like performances and a decanter waved by the second vocalist, who did not seem to sing more than two lines for the entire show, some kind of religious black metal is probably unwinding before my eyes. The band is reverb-drenched, hypnotic and oddly captivating, despite their songs’ lengthy runtime. Prevalent but unobtrusive synths and ambient passages that stretch on for miles successfully create an esoteric atmosphere with majestic, densely layered melodies. These are all things that form their music and I predict a fowl will come mock them. I do not care, I am content with feeling smug superiority over all these peeping toms that feel the urge to take out their phones and run to the front row to shoot as soon as the naked chick walks onto the stage. Holding a skull from which she drinks blood, she later sprays it upon the unsuspecting peepers, drenching at least one phone in it.
In stark opposition, Urn has chosen to enthrall with their personal charisma and kickass riffs, utilizing no visual elements in their show besides the robes they wear and the materials left to the stage by the preceding bands, which I guess I should count as static elements. The audience, and I can no more tell if the numbers have grown or dwindled, is eating from their hands, which is better than eating from my hands at least. Except that I am growing hungry and wish I could eat from my own hands. But the grind knows no rest. I can definitely tell the audience has dwindled as Sinmara takes the stage. The fest has been relatively poorly attended until now but practically no one is watching them. Icelandic black metal doesn’t seem to do all that well in Finland, so unfortunately, this was not a surprise after seeing the likes of Audn and Svartidaudi, although I think the latter’s show was at least nearly sold out, less than half of the crowd must’ve stayed for the Big Black Daddy.
I begin to notice a pattern: towards the set of each band, roughly half of their audience disappears—the beers have to be fetched from the other side of the curtain that separates the stage from the worst of the light, and this distance, I now suspect, proves too much for many to make twice so quickly. It’s a crying shame though, especially in the case of such fantastic rarities as Sinmara, who I should give an extra plus for utilizing so much green light instead of the more common red, which obscures much more of my vision.
The hunger has risen within me and I can no longer ignore it. As I find what I seek I find a rising disappointment as well. A two-day event could sorely have used something heavier to eat than damn hot dogs and pizza slices. The considerably heavier barbecue-basket, which lacks in the delight its name implies, doesn’t really seem like a good answer either, and I am left disgruntled by the offerings. Although, not being an all-day event would mean I could grab a heavier dinner before entering.
I return from the cafe and dinner area, sailing through seas of merchandise on racks and tables, towards the stage that has been separated from the rest of the venue by curtains that help preserve the atmosphere during the shows, but also separate the areas so starkly it invites people to stay back instead of coming to enjoy the show to an area detached even from the rest of the venue. The preservation of the atmosphere isn’t made any easier by the well-lit seating areas placed right next to the stage. This year has seemed like an emergency solution much worse than the last, though this one wasn’t supposed to be one at all.
At last, the final group takes the stage. Tulus has come from Norway to blow me away. Their first, perhaps first two even, were records whose short compositions (at times almost grind-like in their construction) I always enjoyed. I remember being favourable towards their latest offering as well, on these very pages. The stage has been stripped clean for them, and they look more like a bunch of high school dads than like a metal band. And though much can be said about the homogeneous appearance of metal bands, and the disdain towards choosing to not conform to those rules expressed by the likes of Terry “Christbutcher” Clark, I must admit that Tulus’ choice did them no favours on that night. Doesn’t much help that most of the crowd has already escaped by now, and that their set is full of fluff, one filler after another and their performance more like said high school dads for their annual, shaky corner bar gig than a black metal band with almost 30 years of experience. The best thing about their set is that it ends and I can finally get some sleep.
When I wrote the first lines for this in March, I’m pretty sure I had an idea as to the why and how. That idea obviously has eluded me since, and I’ve long thought of abandoning this project, as half of me still thinks I should have. Especially since I’ve lost my notes for the next day, which might have illuminated the original purpose of the piece. But, I had already uploaded some pictures for it so I figured the easiest way to forget it would be to round it out and run it. And now I can finally put it out of my mind.