Without a doubt, Poland’s BEHEMOTH have become one of the most important names in extreme metal within the last few years, which is not only due to some superb albums, but also because of their captivating live performance. And at Summer Breeze the band led by front warrior Nergal, all members wearing eerie make-up, was in top form. With the utmost precision the band blasted songs like “Slaves Shall Serve”, “At The Left Hand Ov God” and “The Apostasy” into the audience in almost majestic fashion. Seriously, by now BEHEMOTH are as powerful as Morbid Angel in their heyday, and that means something! Their multi-faceted anthems, which always change between black and death metal, always had the desired effect. Especially the outstanding drumming of the master Inferno must have made jaws drop throughout the crowd. During “Chant For Eschaton” Nergal put his mask on, further underlining the band’s occult character.
Late at night, DESPISED ICON closed the Thursday proceedings. But the six-piece from Montreal (Canada) didn’t exactly give the die-hard fans a rest. The band blasted out their songs with an incredible level of energy and brutality. The bad members didn’t stand still for a single second, mistreating the ears of the audience partly with insane speed and crushing brutality. But this must have been what the crowd was waiting for, because mosh and circle pits got going immediately. The band, on the other hand, seemed to absorb this energy, turning it into more power. In the course of the set the show developed an almost frightening level of intensity. Technically the band was treading on highest level anyway. The two singers were growling, screaming and squeaking into the mics in turns and even found the time to get into the crowd and show off their impressive moves. Together with CEPHALIC CARNAGE, their current tour mates, DESPISED ICON were surely the most insane and one of the most brutal bands of the whole festival. Those who went to sleep earlier definitely missed a great show, but it’s their own fault!
After the open air stages were finished for the day, there was another outstanding band to watch in the tent. If you had asked ten people for a description of the bands style after the show, chances are you would have had ten different answers. Diversity is definitely one of their strengths. After the band played the opening song “Following Betulas” – the last track on their current album “Eternal Kingdom” – only as a six-piece, with one of the guitarists in charge of the vocals, they were joined by their frontman for “Leave Me here” from the excellent “Salvation” album. The shouted vocals often offered a stark contrast to the rather quiet parts, and the sound spectrum was further widened by trumpets and synths. During the set the band developed an almost hypnotic power, and the closing “Ghost Trail” escalated to an intense climax, leaving most of the audience behind perplexed. Anyway, the band probably walked away with far more fans than they had before the show – but unfortunately they had no merch on sale.
TÝR hail from the Faroe Islands, somewhere in between Scotland, Iceland and Scandinavia, which gives them a special standing in the pagan metal scene, as they bring influences of Nordic folk into their sound in their very own way. The band is really heavy, but melodic and catchy at the same time. There’s hardly any shrill screams in their songs, and they even smile on stage every now and then, which makes them really likeable. Visually, the guys with their naked bellies are a bit reminiscent of Amon Amarth, or maybe Amon’s younger brothers, because neither the bellies nor the beards really had Viking dimensions. During their set the tent was completely packed, and the audience provided loud chants in perfect stadium volume.
Fashion time with the black metal legends: If you ever forget your belt, you might as well use a massive chain. That’s not only functional, it also fits the corpsepaint and boots perfectly. MARDUK probably won’t conquer the catwalks of the world dressed like this, but on stage they had quite a dark image. Musically the Swedish black metal veterans weren’t taking any prisoners either, blasting through their set in a merciless, brutal fashion. Due to new vocalist Mortuus, who replaced original frontman Legion a while ago, the vibe of the show was a bit different, but not any less dark. Surprisingly, the band only played very few songs off the new album, concentrating on older material instead, covering almost their entire discography. In between songs, the band kept the grim atmosphere up with samples. The crowd was constantly headbanging as if there was no tomorrow. To crown a nearly perfect show there was a guest appearance by Primordial frontman Alan A. Nemtheanga.
In the night between August 14th and 15th there was a special event at the metal.de booth for the release of the new END OF GREEN CD. An hour before the band’s arrival there was already a respectable crowd waiting to purchase one of the packages consisting of the new album, a shirt and a ticket for the release show dubbed Sickfest. The first 100 copies of the vinyl edition strictly limited to 999 copies was also available for the first time. Exactly at midnight the dark rockers END OF GREEN stepped up to the booth to celebrate the release of the new killer album “The Sick’s Sense”. In the meantime the area had filled up even more, so the band was quite busy signing CDs. Only after 90 minutes the waves of fans receded, letting END OF GREEN and the people from metal.de breathe a sigh of relief.
Probably hardly anyone wanted to see both Helloween, who played simultaneously on the Main Stage, and CEPHALIC CARNAGE, and so the fans didn’t have a difficult choice to make. Both bands couldn’t have been more different. The Denver clan led by front screamer Lenzig Leal turned the crowd into a raging mob from the very first second. The band’s hyper chaotic yet highly technical grind death metal obviously went over really well, and Leal must have been quite surprised about the great response, as he filmed most of the show with his camera while “singing” at the same time. The band was visibly excited with this reaction and really went for it – not an easy feat considering the extremely intricate parts and the huge amount of breaks. It seemed almost incomprehensible how uninvolved and relaxed drummer John Merryman looked while playing these insane parts on his kit. The singer’s stage raps were in a league of their own (“The next song is about masturbation”, “Everybody headbang”, “We want to Kiffen with you”, etc.), and for the last song the band had thought of something special. After the question “Do you want some real Norwegian black metal? Do you want some real Norwegian black metal from Denver, Colorado?” all the band members came on stage in masks, the singer also with nail wristbands covering his whole forearms, to play an extremely evil track in black metal style before leaving the stage to TÝR.
Close to 11pm the speed metal stalwarts from Hamburg, HELLOWEEN, took off. Despite having been in the business for almost 25 years, the legendary group led by guitarist Michael Weikath and singer/entertainer Andi Deris shows no signs of fatigue. The band more than lived up to their headliner status, thrilling the masses on the packed festival site. And they did it in style, offering quite a few specials as opposed to the more stripped-down Paradise Lost show. In front of the massive backdrop with the design of their current album “Gambling With The devil”, which took up the whole width of the stage, there was a 1.5 meter high bar, in the midst of which Dani Löble’s massive drum set had been placed. Probably not many had ever seen such a huge drum kit before, and the guy hit it like a maniac and sometimes even seemed as if he had more than the standard two arms everyone gets at birth. On the sides of the drum riser there was room for two raised platforms that were used by both guitarists and the bassist to pose every now and then. The show obviously commenced with the classic “Helloween” in its XL version, followed by “March Of Time” from the 1988 album “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2”. After these two tracks, both of which are already over 20 years old, frontman Andi Deris announced the jump back to present times with “As Long As I Fall”, the hit single from their current album. Later Deris got rid of his leather jacket, changing it for a coat with red sequins and the fitting black top hat. Suddenly two additional eye-catchers grew on both sides of the drum kit in the form of massive, about 3 meter high pumpkins lit from the inside, that got a big applause from the audience. After an extensive medley the band left the stage for a moment, soon to return for the grand finale of “Future World” and “I Want Out”. After the show, there were smiling faces all around the audience.
Stephen King already knew: Sometimes they come back. The flagship of British thrash was formed 25 years ago in Bristol. They are certainly one of the most influential European thrash bands of the 80s, and albums such as “Power From Hell”, “The Force” and especially “In Search Of Sanity” are genre milestones. They disbanded in 1991 and reformed approximately 15 years later, delivering a strong album with “Killing Peace”. Accordingly, their show at SUMMER BREEZE wasn’t exactly peaceful, as they took no prisoners in the tent with their pure, unadulterated thrash. Dressed in black as the style demands it, and despite having gained some weight since their early days, they cruised around the stage energetically and gave the crowd what it demanded: old school thrash metal. Words like “enthusiastim” and “excellent vocals” also have to be mentioned when talking about this band. One of the songs on offer was really “nomen est omen”: “Metal Forces”!
The Irish flag draped over the bass rig, the mystical intro and the backdrop depicting an iconic deer head made it clear to everyone that one of the most exceptional bands was about to take the stage. It was pretty clear – and not only due to the huge crowd – that this was one of the day’s first headliners. Highly motivated and dressed in plain black, the band started their set with “Empire Falls”, and from the very first note the crowd was ready to follow every request of the charismatic frontman Alan Nemtheanga. There was loud singing along and clapping from the beginning of the set. Conductor, director and eyecatcher of the show was definitely the frontman, with his head covered with black and white make-up, albeit not the black metal way but more similar to a theatre mime. His gestures further underlined his actions, and his singing was full of passion. He was often seen standing in front of the drum riser, directing his rather stricken drummer. Despite the 50 minutes of stage time, only six songs were played, but it’s no wonder considering the epic/anthemic nature of the songs, and this evening some of them were played in even longer versions. Half of the tracks were from the current album “To The Nameless Dead”, with “As Rome Burns” being the show’s absolute climax. “The Coffin Ships”, from the 2005 album “The Gathering Wilderness”, and “Heathen Tribes” followed, and then it was all over. At the end of the show the frontman said thanks and told the surprised audience that today’s show almost had to be cancelled. Drummer Simon O’Laoghaire had obviously not considered that certain medication should better not be mixed with alcohol, as only thanks to the team of paramedics he was in a good enough condition to play in time for the show.
After AHAB had shrouded the tent in the deepest dark, it was DIABLO SWING ORHCESTRA’s job to lighten things up a bit. The devils were inviting to a dance, and many fans were happy to oblige. From the beginning of their set, the Swedes made for a great atmosphere with their weird mix of rock/metal with soprano vocals that make your glasses crack, a swinging brass section and a cello. There couldn’t have been a starker contrast to the atmosphere just a few moments earlier. The band blended the most disparate influences such as jazz, Mexican music, rock, electronica, classical, metal and opera forming an absolutely crazy mix, with all the songs excellently arranged. During the whole show there was a relaxed atmosphere, on as much as off stage, making the band’s mission accomplished to perfection.
Now it was time to bring the lost paradise back to SUMMER BREEZE, to celebrate dark melancholy far away from all clichés. Just like during their current tour, the first single off their latest album “In Requiem”, “The Enemy”, opened the show, and the Brits had the audience firmly in their grip. Experienced and confident, PARADISE LOST offered the usual image, which is how the band has been known for ages. Vocalist Nick Holmes underlined the words he was singing with discreet gestures, both guitarists headbanged like crazy while producing those inimitable riffs, and only bassist Edmondson seemed a bit static. Among others, the band played “Never For The Damned”, “No Celebration”, “Erased”, “Pity The Dasness”, “Enchantment”, “Requiem” and “Say Just Words”. Highlight of the show was surely “As I Die”, which was played rather early on in the set, and from then on it was no holds barred. Unfortunately, the excellent show was over way too soon, sadly without a single song from the genre-defining “Gothic” album. With a top-class repertoire, PARADISE LOST underlined once more why they belong to the absolute forerunners and pioneers of the scene.
It was already quite dark in the tent when AHAB entered the stage at evening news time, but total darkness seemed to engulf the crowd after the first few chords of their apocalyptic funeral doom. Massive riffs, minimalist, almost imperceptible melodies, powerful drumming and abysmal growls combined with haunting clean vocals formed a sad, depressive, monumental wall of sound impregnated with a fatalist atmosphere. AHAB revelled in every single note of their epically long songs, the sound was as thick as honey, but bitter. The audience reacted in a surprisingly positive way to the rather unusual sounds on offer, with each dirge followed by frenetic applause. Musically, the audience was cast into a deep, dark abyss, only to rise again with a healed soul.
More than punctually, namely at 12:55, the victorious six-pack from last evening was let loose on stage. The Würzburg band immediately covered the whole surface, as if they didn’t know anyhting other than a huge stage. Considering the band’s status there was already a respectable crowd waiting for them. Some of the attendees almost choked on their breakfast due to the brutal greeting, because no one had really expected this motley and chaotic bunch to sound this mean. Totally in control of the situation and the dimensions of the stage and audience, they unleashed such an extreme sound that already by song number two the first circle pit of the day had formed. Both singers growled and screamed their vocal cords bloody, and – due to the special occasion – the only long-haird member of the band even untied his hair, running around the stage like a maniac thanks to his wireless system, while his colleagues’ movements were a bit limited by the leads. During „Verse Der Freiheit“ there was even a mighty wall of death, and it has to be said that the band really lived up to their role as festival openers.
Swabia’s KISSIN DYNAMITE are true newcomer rockers, who obviously have known from a very young age how to present themselves on stage. They are probably not even above legal drinking age, but their roots are obviously in 80s hard/sleaze rock. With their puffed-up hair and fitting outfits they went straight for the throat. Theirs are straight-ahead rock songs with huge potential to become hits, not unlike Mötley Crüe or Guns’n Roses. The crowd wasn’t huge, but didn’t stop partying all the way through their set. Especially the girls, who were not much younger than the band members themselves, were hanging on the singer’s every word. There was a special guest appearance by some masked guy dressed like a woman. But the band knew how to pose too, showing the audience the way it’s been done since the 80s – no cliché was left ignored. If these kids keep rocking this way, the tent is going to be much fuller next time around!
Many festivalgoers had been anxiously awaiting ARCH ENEMY, and the crowd facing the stage was accordingly pretty big. Frontwoman Angela Gossow greeted the audience with a growled “Hello Summer Breeze!”, which was followed by a best-of selection from their last three albums. Loads of hits such as “We Will Rise”, “Nemesis” and “Revolution Begins” were smashed into the crowd. Angela in her tight black suit was obviously the main eye-catcher. She replied to the numerous stupid shouts of “Ausziehen!” (“strip!”) from the audience by flashing her belly, making it clear that she doesn’t have a beer gut like most in the crowd, and also that she’s no stripper, but the singer in a metal band – touché, Madame! Being from Germany, she visibly enjoyed being able to do her stage raps in her native language again after being away on tour all the time. But the rest of the band was in just as good shape. The Amott brothers’ (Christopher and Michael) fingers raced over the fretboards like possessed, and the rhythm section provided a massive foundation. The crowd showed their appreciation with very enthusiastic reactions.
Romania’s NEGURA BUNGET are officially a three-piece, but for their SUMMER BREEZE show their line-up was boosted with another three members. In English, the band name means something like “misty forest”, and they were able to fit only four songs into their 30 minutes of stage time. Extremely dark black metal was on offer, which was clearly recognizable as such, but which had also significant differences from the band’s Norwegian peers. For instance, the band redefined the term “drum’n’bass” with the song “Norilor”, when the guitars were just left aside and an additional band member appeared armed with drums and percussion instruments to join them in their macabre overture. With just keyboards, percussion and bass the band created an oppressively dark atmosphere which sent shivers down the spines of the fans in attendance.
In the UK, punk’n’rollers THE WILDHEARTS have had chart entries for years and are an established rock act. In Germany, on the contrary, the band is mostly unknown. And it showed with the crowd, which, compared to GRAVEWORM, was much more passive and less numerous. However, those who were there and knew the band were all the more enthusiastic, hanging onto frontman Ginger’s every word. The finest rock’n’roll with a punk rock attitude and lots of creativity was on offer, and one of the Brits even sported the first mohican of the festival. The band was very active and outdid itself in terms of posing. Their material is so catchy that anyone could sing along to it even without knowing it. The Helmet cover “Unsung”, which is featured on the band’s current covers album, was a nice surprise. Anyone who saw the show was either reminded of the good old days or just plainly infected with the rock’n’roll virus. Anyway, at the end of the show, most people in the audience had a big grin on their faces.
SOILWORK’s gig started with a cool intro. A deep, low voice asked “Are you ready?”, which was obviously replied with a loud “YEAH!!!” in unison by the large crowd. Furthermore, the band was ironically introduced as the Vikings from Sweden. And the Vikings immediately kicked off with the opening track from their last album, captivating the audience. Especially frontman Björn Strid whipped up the crowd to the max, reaping a sea of horns, thunderous clapping and eventually a wall of death. The band’s performance was absolutely professional. The guitar work made jaws drop in the first rows and bassist Ola Fink made a few people smile with his – let’s call them “unusual” – contortions. Other than the fact they left out their first two albums, the selection of songs left nothing to be desired. The main focus was on newer material, but all the hit albums were represented.
After BORN FROM PAIN had already started their set with the soundtrack from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, Zelle’s DRONE chose exactly the same piece. However, they picked up the intro theme and carried on playing it themselves before blasting their first song into the tent. The band is often dismissed as a German version of Machine Head, but – original or not – at least regarding the stage presence and action, Robb Flynn & Co. could actually learn something from them, because the band really gave their all. The harmony vocals were not always clean, but the overall impression is what counts, and that was definitely two thumbs up, or rather one index finger and one little finger up! Since the band had only just left the studio the day before it wasn’t that surprising that they played a new song, namely ‘This Is Africa’, which was received very well despite being totally unknown. Introducing one song with the Rocky-anthem ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ – also played by themselves – was a very cool idea. One of the festivals first major surprises!
Things got a lot darker on the Pain Stage as GRAVEWORM drew all friends of darkness – admittedly under a blazing sun – to celebrate for 45 minutes. Their solid, melodic mix of black and gothic metal with massive riffs and strong keyboard parts was presented in the usual professional fashion. The band – as always in a great mood – just has a knack for captivating, bombastic metal anthems and high speed brutality. So all the ingredients for a great show were there, and with songs like ‘Hateful Design’, ‘Bloodwork’, ‘The Day I Die’ and ‘Suicide Code’ the band was on to a winner anyway. Just the wall of death seemed a bit out of place, but why not try something new, especially if we’re talking about the SUMMER BREEZE crowd.
On Thursday, proceedings on the tent stage didn’t start until 16:00, but when they did it was all the more brutal. Replacing BLOOD RED THRONE, Aalen death metal veterans APOPHIS took the stage. Apparently the band itself were quite surprised about their short-term booking, because they only made it to Summer Breeze with one guitarist instead of two. Although it seemed quite unusual and strange at first, it progressively gained momentum as the situation shed a new light on the existing material. During the solos, the guitar was only accompanied by the bass. The action on stage was mainly provided by frontman Bernd while his cohorts concentrated on playing their parts and headbanging. Stage raps liks ‘this next song is like the whole festival, an excess!’ proved that it wasn’t the band’s first time. And the tent also visibly filled up during their set, so that set closer ‘The End Of The Path’ was played to a proper crowd.
For chartbreakers SALTATIO MORTIS it was an easy feat to draw a huge crowd to the main stage from the beginning of their set, which was quite amazing considering the early hour. As soon as the gleemen entered the stage they were greeted by thousands of clapping hands. No matter what song the bards played, the fans were always with them. The bouncers had a lot of work with crowdsurfers flying over the barrier every minute. The crowd sang along loudly to songs like ‘Promoetheus’, ‘Varulfen’ and ‘Spielmannsschwur’, providing the band with the extra kick. At least singer Alea went as far as saying that the audience was much better than the one at Wacken a few weeks earlier – which wasn’t really big news. There isn’t really anything more to add to that. Even after SALTATIO MORTIS had left the stage and the first sounds of GRAVEWORM could be heard from the Pain Stage, a lot of medieval metal fans were still standing there, chanting their ‘Wohohohoho’ for their heroes.
Not only was the sunshine quite intense, Belgium’s ABORTED also gave their all to warm their fans up. Brutal death metal with technical refinement can be so beautiful. ABORTED simply know how to win over a crowd easily. Super fast blast beats, powerful grooves, staccato riffing and shredding solos paired with Svencho’s brutal voice. Their times of extreme brutality may be over since ‘Strychnine.213’, but ABORTED are still a very extreme band, which they impressively proved at SUMMER BREEZE once more. The Belgians showed their best side led by frontman Svencho, who could bee seen jumping around the stage and up and down – the guy seems to have bones made of rubber. But his bandmates weren’t any less active without neglecting their tight interplay. Obviously during the wall of death all hell broke loose. That was war!
None of the bands announced had caused as much discussion in the days prvious to the festival as the Bavarian five-piece. But some had definitely judged them too quickly, because firstly, the EMIL BULLS had already proved they were BREEZE-compatible on several occasions, and secondly, quite a few things have changed in the last few years. For instance, their long-time DJ left the band without being replaced, and the current album ‘The Black Path’ shows a significantly harder side of the band, without leaving singer Chris’ characteristic catchy melodies aside. And it was precisely said album which was extensively featured throughout the set after the band entered the stage to the sounds of what was probably the coolest intro of the whole festival: Manowar’s ‘Kings Of Metal’. Four songs from the new album followed, during which the band members were constantly headbanging and running around on stage. Despite the short set they opted to play a cover, surprising the audience with a convincing version of the Megadeth classic ‘Symphony Of Destruction’. The following song was probably the best-known of the band, namely ‘Smells Like Rock’n’Roll’ from their debut album. Band and audience were visibly enjoying each other, with which the group’s third appearance at SUMMER BREEZE can be called a complete success.
While an atmospheric intro was playing, ALL ENDS gathered behind the stage to celebrate their very own pre-show ritual. Granted, it’s something that many bands do, but probably not many bands at SUMMER BREEZE would sing Bon Jovi hits… Which should also make clear that, although the band hails from Gothenburg, they are not typical for that city. All eyes fell on the two ladies with the mics at first, who were clearly the focus of attention during the performance, being competently assisted by their black-clad musicians. They might not have invented the (musical) wheel, but the band has an obvious knack for catchy vocal lines, often sung in harmony, and a lot of groove. Thanks to the big Gelotte tattoo on one of the singers’ back, it was quite obvious which one of them was the sister of the In Flames guitarist. After a rather cool reception from the already big crowd, the band warmed up visibly, winning over more and more listeners in the process. During the balladesque ‘Just A Friend’, the first few rows could even be seen clapping along. ALL ENDS smartly followed it up with their catchiest material, finishing with the title track off their debut EP ‘Wasting Life’. It was a convincing show that must have gained them quite a few new fans. The debut will be out in September.