WALLS OF JERICHO’s show was certainly one of the highlights on the Pain Stage. This year marked the Chicago band’s long overdue debut at SUMMER BREEZE. Accordingly, loads of fans had gathered in front of the stage, and after a short intro the band led by frontwoman Candace stormed the stage. Probably due to the cold wind the band members had chosen their warmer stage outfits, but they took them off after only one song. No surprise they warmed up quickly, as they were really enthusiastic and agile on stage. It didn’t take long for the audience to develop the same energy level, as Candace repeatedly called for circle pits. There were even three simultaneous pits at times. The wall of death was obviously another popular pit game. The gig consisted of a solid “best of” set from the last three albums, and was naturally ended with the band’s singalong-hit “Revival Never Goes Out Of Style”. At that time the crowd in front of the stage was going mental. A fantastic show which was enjoyed equally by band and fans. Bassist Aaron Ruby even jumped into the crowd after the show was over. The only downer for all diehards was the fact that the band actually would have had time to play for five more minutes.
Last band on were newcomers THE FACELESS, whose debut album “Planetary Duality” has made a massive impact on the scene. Accordingly, there were still numerous fans about who had waited long not to miss this musical tidbit. The boys are all just in their early 20s, but they have really mastered their instruments. Their style is a true exception in their genre. There’s hardly another band to mix brutal tech-death metal with progressive elements, catchy melodies and skullsplitting riffs with such virtuosity. They race across their fretboards and drum skins on an extremely high technical level. The bloodcurdling vocals don’t leave anything to be desired in terms of charisma, and the clean vocals provide some variety. The songs, which were partly accompanied by atmospheric samples, are extremely varied yet never too intricate, always staying within the realm of the comprehensible. Besides the songs off “Planetary Duality” the band played two tracks from their first album. Impressively, the band managed to recreate the intensity of their album one to one and even to increase it. Shouter Derek Rydquist made a very nice impression and the audience was at his feet. A real treat for those who stayed up late. THE FACELESS’ show can easily be considered one of the musical climaxes of the whole festival.
Late at night deathcore shooting stars CARNIFEX took the stage, with the tent still nicely full. The band had also stayed awake and really went for it. The scrawny and excessively tattooed shouter Scott Lewis showed everyone how deep and brutal his growls are. Meanwhile, the band put the audience under a continuous fire of ultra-brutal blast beats and breakdowns. Surprisingly, the band didn’t base their set only on songs from their hit album “The Diseased And The Poisoned”, but also played tracks from their debut “Dead In My Arms”, which is not quite as well-known around these parts. Technically there were absolutely no weak points in their extreme sound. The crowd cheered the band on, and during the hit “Lie To my Face” there were even singalongs to be heard. It seems like CARNIFEX’s busy touring schedule is paying off.
Lovers of the truly extreme will hardly have left the tent during this day; if anything, only to evacuate and refill, because what was on display from 4PM on was really a non-stop, high-quality blastfest. SUFFOCATION, probably the most reknowned band to play the tent today, got on stage to impressively underline the reason for their near-legendary reputation. They are considered one of the first bands to mix hardcore with brutal death metal, a combination that is also represented visually by vocalist Frank Mullen. The brawny frontman with the shaved skull walked the stage in his big jeans, creating the perfect symbiosis of hardcore and death metal with his political stage raps and his aggressive shouts and growls. A further factor within the band that helps generate that legendary status is the inhumanly fast and precise drumming of Mike Smith. Bassist Derek Boyer drew the crowd’s attention not only through his accurate playing, but also because of his strange headbanging posture. With bent knees, as if sitting in an invisible chair, he let his hair rotate almost sweeping the floor with it. Thanks to the impeccable performance the audience went wild and there was a circle pit going practically at all times. Hats off!
It is always a pleasure to see Erik Rutan and his cohorts live, as HATE ETERNAL are among the most technically proficient bands around. Especially Erik is difficult not to watch – and not just due to his appearance – when his fingers race across the fretboard. HATE ETERNAL left no eye dry and no jaw un-dropped. However, with all technical ability the band was not able to disguise the fact that a second guitarist would do them good. Especially during the solos the sound tended to seem a bit limited. But that would be the only small point of criticism, because otherwise HATE ETERNAL were absolutely convincing. Even though their songs are more technical and therefore lack a bit of party-appeal compared to MISERY INDEX’s, the audience seemed impressed by the material on offer and knew how to savor it. But all in all – with the exception of the technical perfection – there have been better HATE ETERNAL shows.
Many of the fans in attendance probably remembered the band’s last appearance, either because they were there in person in 2006, or because they had seen/heard the “Live Consternation” CD/DVD. Exactly at midnight the intro started and the band launched into a rather sloppy version of “Consternation”. Still during the following “Soil’s Song” the band seemed quite unfocused, only picking themselves up for “Teargas”, from their latest album “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”. While at SUMMER BREEZE 2006 the band didn’t play one song from said album, now they seemed to try and make up for it, as “Future Of Speech” and “Tonight’ Music” followed. Despite a purposely balanced setlist, a fairly committed band and a rather docile audience, this time for some reason the atmosphere wasn’t right. “Ghost Of The Sum” sounded convincing, but then the following “My Twin” didn’t manage to keep the energy level. The last song was supposed to be the acclaimed “Evidence”, at least according to the setlist, but there was a surprising bonus in the shape of “Murder”, from 1996’s “Brace Murder Day”, with growls and all! A great band in a not-so-great show. Maybe it really had to do with the fact that the band had to interrupt their ongoing studio sessions to be able to play this gig…
“We Never Come In Peace” was the title of their intro and a statement of intent at once, when MISERY INDEX came on the Party Stage at a pretty late hour. The Maryland four-piece could easily match the high level of brutality established earlier by ANAAL NATHRAKH, incorporating their political convictions into their show too – the band is know to be committed to their cause. Their sound was a lot more direct than that of their predecessors, but the punch it developed really got the audience moving. In just under 45 minutes MISERY INDEX ground their way through a representative sample of their discography, leaving the audience no time to breathe. There was quite a bit of action in the tent thanks to a few circle pits, until the band ended their set with the cool “Conquistadores”.
While medieval sounds are always welcome at SUMMER BREEZE and CORVUS CORAX, the protagonists of the following CANTUS BURANUS show, are no strangers to the festival either, this production shattered everything that had been seen here before. Star director Gert Hof, who has already staged shows for RAMMSTEIN, was apparently given absolute creative (and financial) freedom, because the sheer quantities of crew members, instruments, props and effects was more than impressive. To make it clear from the start, it wasn’t just the size, it was also the quality of the event that was impressive. The approximately 30-piece Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague, the equally sized Passionata Choir and Ingeborg Schöpf, soprano at the Dresden State Operetta, perfectly rounded out the CORVUS CORAX show. Be it in blood-red cardinal robes or in mysterious monks’ cowls (both band and choir changed their wardrobe repeatedly during the show!), the show was a true happening and a visual fireworks display. Speaking of which: in addition to the perfect lighting, there were obviously a few pyro effects. And the music was obviously spectacular as well, because such a huge orchestra, complete with brass and woodwinds, timpani, harp, gong and a whole armada of strings, provided an impressive sound spectrum, complemented by a massive arsenal of medieval instruments of percussion and wind. The sheer grandiosity of it all gave you the goosebumps. The musical adaptation of the Carmina Burana lyrics as a mix of classical, soundtrack and medieval music along the familiar sounds of the CORVUS CORAX band were just made for headlining a festival like this.
ANAAL NATHRAKH celebrated their German stage premiere at SUMMER BREEZE, and their music was something rarely heard before: the Brits unite clanking black metal riffs with rabid death metal vocals and flawless grind speed to a mix that threatens to leave you deaf, dumb and blind. Their songs, with titles such as “ I Am The Wrath Of Gods And The Desolation Of The Earth” and “Der Hölle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen”, were almost all of the speed-of-sound variety, while the guitars spread black metal disharmonies and vocalist Dave screamed, grunted and growled at the top of his vocal cords. What made the whole mix really sick was them interspersing anthemic choruses and melodic parts in the middle of the wildest blasts, with Dave letting loose his clean singing voice. ANAAL NATHRAKH walk the fine line between genius and insanity in a way that makes them absolutely outstanding and sensational. Even though there might be something for everyone among the ingredients of their sound, the whole is not necessarily everyon’s cup of tea. Impressive!
Rock’n’Roll, baby! The Swedish quartet’s appearance meant it was time for dirty, snotty rock’n’roll. The band started their set in a visibly relaxed manner, yet with loads of ants in their pants. What followed was a display of all existing rock clichés (meant in a positive way). Especially guitarist Dregen was on fire, delivering a fireworks of cool rock’n’roll moves, including the typical Angus Young walk, playing on his knees, and the unavoidable posing with a cig in his mouth. The band played an energetic set with songs from their entire history, albeit with an emphasis on new material. Despite their excellent place on the bill there were relatively few people in front of the stage, but those who were there seemed to be having a great tim, giving the band copious amounts of applause. After eleven songs the band left the stage to return later for one encore. However, vocalist Nicke Borg came back on his own at first for a solo rendition of the song “Saved By The Bell” – definitely the climax of the whole show. “Look At You” and “People Like Us” brought the gig to a close. The BACKYARD BABIES were one of the more exotic bands on the bill at SUMMER BREEZE, yet they convinced with an excellent show, provided some variety and probably walked away with a few new fans!
HACKNEYED’s death metal salvo wasn’t an easy act to follow for Massachusetts’ THE RED CHORD with their mix of grindocre, death metal and hardcore. Still groggy from the grooves of the preceding band, it took the audience a few minutes to adjust to this musical frenzy. Yet finally there were no holds barred once vocalist Guy Kozowyk had taken over, whipping up the tent to extremes. Neckbreaking time changes and reckless blast beats alternated regularly, manifesting the outstanding status of this exceptional live band. The boys skillfully mixed new and old songs in their set, and towards the end the tent was a boiling pit. Even the bouncers got extremely busy, fishing out a low-flying metalhead from the audience almost every second. THE RED CHORD proved once again that they have firmly established themselves as a fabulous live band.
Prime time for German thrash veterans KREATOR, and everybody was there. Everybody? At least that’s what it looked like, as a huge crowd had gathered in front of the Main Stage to watch cult frontman Mille and his not-so-young cohorts. No wonder, as KREATOR are THE German thrash institution, which not only has influenced whole legions of bands all around the world, but has also recently released a truly majestic album with “Hordes Of Chaos”. But the fans obviously wanted to hear the classics, and KREATOR wouldn’t be KREATOR if they didn’t know that. Accordingly, the band played tons of old hits. During the intro, “Choir Of The Damned”, huge fog machines spread their red emissions over the crowd, creating the perfect visual setting for opener “Hordes Of Chaos (A Necrologue For The Elite)”. Front warrior Mille was, as always, the central figure of the show, inciting bigger and bigger mosh pits from the stage. Not that it would have been necessary, as the band pulled all the stops anyway. Be it the perfect interplay, the great stage acting or the merciless setlist, the fans couldn’t have wished for a better show. New and old hits followed each other seamlessly, and KREATOR proved once more that they are far from finished, as they know better than anyone how to play aggressive music and captivate a massive audience in the process. No loss of bite and power from Germany’s main thrash band. Many looked quite surprised when the band left the stage after only eight songs, but obviously the loud chants for an encore followed immediately and KREATOR returned for a few more songs, then leaving with a simple “Tschüss”. You obviously can’t turn your back on the SUMMER BREEZE audience just like that, and so “Warcurse” kicked off the second encore. Before playing “Flag Of Hate” Mille walked the stage waving a huge KREATOR flag and made the audience chant the chorus repeatedly, making the words resound all over Dinkelsbühl. The cult song “Tormentor” then marked the end of an amazing show. Well done!
The following show was a true revelation for all die-hard death metal fans. The young Swabians destroyed the Party Tent from the get-go. While the previous year they had the bonus of their very short ages, this evening HACKNEYED dispelled all doubts about their quality. This is an adult band playing death metal with the highest technical standard. Especially vocalist Phil has developed a charisma which is almost unbelievable for his age – early practice makes the master indeed! With the cleverly chosen opener “Axe Splatter” the vocalist, a mix of experience and youthful charme, had the audience firmly in his grip. The rest of the band also left the intial nerves behind quickly, blasting from one climax to the next. Only recently being promoted as hopeful newcomers, this evening HACKNEYED proved that they have become serious contenders in the death metal arena within the shortest of times. The audience honored every song with enthusiastic applause, forming a massive mosh pit in the middle of the packed tent again and again. Whoever had any doubts about this band was converted by the wave of sheer musical brutality. From new hopefuls to figureheads of German death metal in such a short time – that deserves some respect!
Their accompanying parents were at least as excited as the band members themselves when it was finally time for SECOND RELATION to officially open SUMMER BREEZE 2009. Just in time for their set it stopped raining as well, so there was a constant flow of people towards the stage during their set. Quite a few people probably had a hard time synchronizing the grown-up sound coming from the speakers with the sight of the underage musicians on stage. Anyway, their sound was absolutely mesmerizing. In no way this was a band that would provoke spontaneous mass-jumping, but, being the first band on, they really fit the weather situation. Cloudy skies, wind, pretty much an autmnal atmosphere – the only thing missing was actually falling leaves. The protagonists on stage also seemed quite introverted, and especially singer/bassist Bastian was deeply immersed in the songs and his parts, which he managed to perform with sleepwalking perfection. Apart from the constant inflow of people, only after the first song (which was not exactly short) loud applause made it clear that the audience was really into it, making the boys on stage visibly confused. After the show, many could probably relate to the previous day’s jury’s decision.
After Aussies PSYCROPTIC, another band from a former British colony got up on stage. Canada’s BENEATH THE MASSACRE showed the crowd in the Party Tent who’s boss when it comes to extreme metal. With breathtaking speed and precision the band fired their songs into the willing crowd. Intricate guitar riffs met massive drum blasts, causing jaws to drop everywhere. Yet the band deliberately slowed down every once in a while to challenge the audience with huge breakdowns. Beefy shouter Elliot is the main point of attraction in the band, and his deep growls were ear-piercing. The setlist was comprised of both new songs and older material. Lovers of the more extreme styles of metal definitely got their money’s worth at this show.
It wasn’t the first time at Summer Breeze for German jokers J.B.O., and once more they provided an hour of good fun. A huge crowd had gathered in front of the Main Stage when the pink bards started furiously with “Im Verkehr”. Pink Marshall cabinets on stage and fans dressed as pink rabbits, sheep, angels or anything else they could think of. If you have always wanted to see quite a human-looking rabbit bang his ears, you need to go to a J.B.O. show. The whole gig was actually pretty entertaining, not only because of the funny songs, but because of the jokes that especially Vito and Hannes kept cracking in between songs. The world – at least the Franconian part of it – was at J.B.O.’s feet. The crowd sang each and every song, the interaction between band and audience was almost perfect, and countless crowd surfers gave the security a lot of work. By the way, the bouncers were wearing pink shirts as well. The Pink Army is and will always be synonymous with fun and party. True “Defenders of Nonsense”! And there was even a brand new song titled “Geh mer halt zu Slayer”.
PSYCROPTIC must have been the band with the longest way to get to the festival. The band hails from Australia, Tasmania to be more exact. Pretty much the other side of the world. But their reputation preceded them, as many willing moshers had made their way to the Party Tent. Technical yet straight-ahead death metal ranging from progressive to grindcore. Shouter Jason was definitely the eye-catcher of the show with his shaved skull and a single thin but very long braid which made for a pretty cool mosh effect. The sound was ultra brutal and contained high-speed blast orgies as well as razor sharp grooves. In the course of the set the tent kept filling up more and more, and the Aussies left the stage with a big smile of satisfaction on their faces.
After one false start with the intro, at 17.25 the actual, dramatic introduction began. It’s hard to say if it was the Bavarians’ five-year absence from SUMMER BREEZE or the audience’s fondness for rough pagan metal, but it was an immediate win for EQUILIBRIUM. Surprised with the euphoric reactions, singer Helge Stang kept thanking the audience in between songs as if he couldn’t believe what was happening. But, besides the singer, the rest of the band didn’t really seem to get motivated by the insane crowd as they concentrated almost stoically on playing their instruments. However, there was a lot of work for the security in the pit, there were various crowd surfers over the heads and, behind the scenes, the first victims actually had to receive first aid! As a bit of a joke, the band did a rather disrespectful cover of the Michael Jackson hit Billie Jean, with the singer armed with a hat trying unsuccessfully to imitate the famous poses. It all ended quite abruptly with the beginning of the next song though.
There has been a lot of talk lately about a huge resurgence of thrash metal. This might be a bit of an overstatement, although there’s more and more bands cultivating this genre nowadays. The UK’s SYLOSIS are one of these bands, who released their debut album “Conclusion Of An Age” late last year. Old school meets new school. With a mix of Bay Area thrash and modern influences from Northern Europe – a touch of melodic death metal – and a bit of metalcore, the band quickly had the tent in their grip. No wonder, with a sound somewhere in between TESTAMENT, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, IN FLAMES, SOILWORK and SLAYER. Especially the epic choruses sung with clear vocals and the deep growls of their talented singer Jamie, combined with their brutal grooves, were greeted by a multitude of fists in the air as well as lots of action in the front rows. The frontman seemed to be bursting with energy, but the effort was surely worth it! And he didn’t really have to ask long for a wall of death.
Although – or maybe because – the style of this band is quite at the fringes of what is usually seen at SUMMER BREEZE, their fans started crowding up in front of the Main Stage – and up to way past the mixing – desk long before the show. When it was finally time for band and fans to start, there were no holds barred on either side. The band began playing the first song on their own at first, and then, when singer Der Graf joined them, there was extra loud applause. The guy is the linchpin of the band anyway. Smartly dressed in black trousers and tie and white shirt – but with no hair – his charisma captivated the audience. He struck a few theatrical poses, walked the edge of the stage back and forth like a tiger and made an extremely cool impression. (Later at the signing session he reaffirmed this impression as he had absolutely no reservations, granting absolutely everybody their signature, photo or handshake). Pretty early in the set the band pulled the first ballad from the hat, but even then the vibe didn’t drop, it was rather a further higlight. The band had also put some thought into the visual side of things, adorning their almost pop-sounding mix of gothic and “Neue Deutsche Härte” with a triptych-style backdrop and three giant candleholders. The only minor complaint would be that the band looked quite static behind Der Graf.
JACK SLATER, who named themselves after the main character in the film “Last Action Hero”, have been a household name in the German underground for 13 years and possess a reputation of being an outstanding live band. And the numerous fans in the Party Tent were able to see it for themselves this afternoon. With playful ease and visible enthusiasm the band fired their technical brutal death metal with US grindcore influences from the stage. Their crunchy, powerful and aggressive songs, which alternated between groove and high speed, oozed with blood and rawness as the lyrics in German language deal mostly with splatter and horror. Not only the band’s enthusiasm, but also the funny stage raps of their singer Horn made for great entertainment, as he wondered at the large number of “ugly people” in the tent. Fortunately, nobody followed his request to storm the stage, as there weren’t many bouncers about. It was nice to be able to hear all the little technical details such as the fantastically original guitar leads. The merciless “Metzgore” marked the end of an energetic gig.
Although the audience surely deserved better weather, the ambience was perfect for Sweden’s GRAND MAGUS. The sky covered in dark grey and a cool wind blowing over the fields. From the very first second the trio made it clear that groovy old school doom with earthy rock elements can work perfectly well on a festival and that it can also be accepted by a younger audience. Despite the fact that this day the band was not exactly very active on stage, from the beginning the audience could be seen nodding in approval right to the very last rows. GRAND MAGUS rocked the SUMMER BREEZE. Especially the rhythm section of drummer Frederik and bassist Fox produced a grandiose wall of sound. Singer JB was in a great mood – as always – and told nordic anecdotes as a way to announce the songs. The highlight of the set was the title track of their current album “Iron Will”, which was accompanied by loud chants from the audience. Visibly moved and always in the proximity of a beer can, JB was in absolute extasy and left an enthusiastic crowd behind, one that no one would have expected to be this large. A gig full of character by the Swedes, who probably won over quite a few new fans.
It had been a long time since VADER, always welcome guests at SUMMER BREEZE, had last been seen around these parts. While the Poles had been almost overexposed a few years back, they have managed to turn the impending oversaturation into new hunger in their audience, and today they fed them with a massive old school show. After the intro, during which the entirely renewed line-up took to the stage, the band went straight for the throat with “Dark Age”. Nutcracker-tight and extremely well-rehearsed, VADER pointed into the right direction: the past. “Sothis” and “Black To The Blind” followed, making it clear that VADER still have an unmistakably distinct style. Frontman Pjotr’s growls are unique, matched only perhaps by Jan-Chris de Koeijer’s (GOREFEST), as he incited the crowd to start a few walls of death. The guitars were buzzing like a giant swarm of killer bees and drummer Paul was a true weapon; a machine gun of big caliber and double barrel, bringing back fond memories of late drummer Doc, who passed away a few years ago but left an indelible mark on VADER’s sound with his playing. In the audience there was no time for sentimentalism though. The fluctuating orbit of the mosh pit sucked in more and more people, Polish flags were waving in the air, song titles were chanted and a lilac pillow was thrown from one side of the audience to the other. And some still say death metal wasn’t made for cuddling!
After newcomers Second Relation, it was Deadlock’s turn to take the Pain Stage. During Katra’s set on the Main Stage numerous fans had already made their way over to watch Deadlock. After a brief techno intro the five gentlemen and one lady went straight for it. “Martyr To Science” and “Code Of Honor” were two absolute hits right at the beginning of the set. It was a varied soundmix of brutal metalcore and epic metal. The twin vocals of frontwoman Sabine and shouter Johannes give their songs a very special note. Sabine, with her crystal clear yet powerful voice, is actually one of the best female singers in modern metal. Towards the end, the band brought back some more techno/dance, which probably didn’t go over too well with a few people in the audience. However, the show was a success altogether and gained excellent reactions. Deadlock impressively proved that they have grown to be a very powerful live act over the years.
Next it was time for Finnish goth sounds on the Main Stage. After the demanding material of their predecessors, this went straight to the feet of the early risers in attendance. The red-haired beauty with the mic did a great job at motivating and animating the audience, and pretty soon there were hands in the air clapping along. The band had to struggle with some feedback at first, but after two songs everything was fine. Singer and namesake Katra was focused on winning over the masses, and so it seemed forgiveable that she didn’t hit every note 100% in tune. What may have caused some irritation was the abundance of keyboard parts coupled with the absence of a keyboardist – the sounds were all programmed. It would be obvious to compare this band to NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION, etc.,but the Finns were much more direct and avoided any excursions into opera. What came as a surprise was their cover of a song known by the genreal public from LOONA or maybe even MECANO: “Hijo De La Luna”. But the Spanish hit actually gained a lot with KATRA’s interpretation and was well received by the audience. Almost as an apology, the bassist asked the audience “are you ready for some serious headbanging?” before the next song – and the audience was more than ready! However, it seemed strange that in the meantime there were more people waiting for DEADLOCK in front of the Pain Stage than watching KATRA at the Main Stage.