While the last couple of days the awakening had been delicate, considerate, almost whispered by Second Relation and Unsun respectively, BENIGHTED were the musical equivalent of a bucket of ice-cold water in the face. Just death metal with a touch of grindcore, where the protagonists actually didn’t come across as grim as the music may have suggested. The drummer battered a bright yellow kit, two of the band members went on stage barefoot and bassist Eric Lombard even appeared in a pink T-shirt, small, pale jeans shorts with colorful patches and a big tattoo depicting Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh’s depressive donkey friend!) on his right calf. Strictly judging by appearance, no one would probably have suspected a death metal background! After the intro, “Collapse” started fulminantly, until the funny basist’s lowest string broke and he didn’t have a spare string or bass ready. The incredibly proficient drummer, behind whom a cluster of musicians and stage techs were watching in awe, bridged the time it took his bassist to change tuning with a grooving drum pattern. This had the amusing effect of going from a death metal show into an elevator playing muzak, to get out on a different floor hosting another death metal concert. Despite it being criminally early, a considerable crowd was there to be woken with the BENIGHTED maul. The band focused on the material of their “Icon” album and definitely gave enough reasons to be invited again.
What was suprising at first, considering the early hour, was the pretty big crowd in attendance. Although only a side project of Tuomas Saukkonen from Before The Dawn, it looked like a lot of people like the atmospheric tracks of their debut album “Darkness Walks Beside Me”. Granted, the dark atmosphere of the songs screams for other climatic conditions than the hot midday sun, but other than that, there was nothing to complain about. Saukkonen directed his two guitar players through the six songs from behind his kit, occasionally singing the more brutal parts, but largely leaving the vocals to the guitar fraction. Mikko Heikkilä was in charge of the clear vocals while his colleague Mynni Luukkainen delivered the growls. Stylistically the band is hard to pinpoint, but there was definitely some melancholy, dark atmospheres and a certain groove to the songs. What seemed odd, but didn’t affect the performance in a negative way, was the complete absence of song announcements.
The following band, Denmark’s THE STORM, is not very well-known around here yet, but that is about to change soon. Their vocalist Pernille sang a duet with Michael Poulsen on the last VOLBEAT album “Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood”. Musically THE STORM are quite different from their fellow countrymen though, as they play a fine, sentimental, yet sometimes pretty heavy gothic rock with a lot of melody, mainly in a slow tempo and slightly reminiscent of older The Gathering. Great music, great vocals, great dark/romantic atmosphere. For many festivalgoers this was their first contact with THE STORM, but they fell under the band’s spell thanks to their outstanding performance and captivating sounds. And when VOLBEAT vocalist Michael finally came on stage to sing the last song with Pernille, there were no holds barred. THE STORM had taken Dinkelsbühl by storm, because not many bands manage to give you the goosebumps with such hot temperatures and under a scorching sun.
Many think of BEFORE THE DAWN as the next Sentenced. The Finns might still be far from that kind of status, but their dark/melancholic music between melodic death metal and gothic metal isn’t far behind that of the sadly disbanded genre pioneers. With their straight-ahead, melodic and catchy songs, which ar reminiscent of AMORPHIS, DARK TRANQUILLITY and KATATONIA here and there, BEFORE THE DAWN touched a string with the big audience, as the atmosphere rose throughout the set. The trade vocals between bassist Lars Eikind’s epic clean vocals and guitarist/singer Tuomas Saukkonen’s massive growls were brilliant. The powerful yet melodic riffs and the fabulous hooklines had the desired effect and were celebrated unrestrictedly. The euphorically acclaimed performance ended with the excellent “Deadsong”.
In the early afternoon a true cult band of Swedish old-school death metal, GRAVE, entered the stage. They didn’t disappoint the fans, delivering an excellent best-of set. Regardless of the consequences, the band plowed its way through the songs. Their downtuned riffs, which helped define the sound of death metal, hit right in the stomach and clearly had the desired effect in motivating the audience. The band feels at home with high-speed riffs as well as merciless grooves. The songs were mostly from their early albums. Only towards the end of the set the band played their über-hit “Soulless”, which fans had been demanding again and again in between songs. By the way, the bassist position in GRAVE is currently held by Fredrik Isaksson (ex-Therion). In November the band will go on tour with KRISIUN and NILE, and they shouldn’t disappoint judging by their performance today!
Apparently the singer in KRYPTERIA lived out a childhood fantasy on stage. It is a known fact that girls like to play with dolls and change their clothes and are generally more interested in extravagant wardrobe than their masculine counterparts. Miss Ji-In Cho came on stage in a lavish white wedding gown, which she got rid off during the first song with a lascivious strip dance. Underneath she was wearing a black leather outfit though, which disappointed the male crowd. Her candy coated vocals fit the band’s rocking sound perfectly, lending it a certain pop appeal. The songs were made especially convincing by their gripping character and their catchiness. Before you noticed, the songs had stuck in your brain for good. The enthusiastic band contributed their part, making KRYPTERIA’s appearance at SUMMER BREEZE another success.
The Netherlands’ BORN FROM PAIN were definitely among the winners of this Saturday afrternoon. Led by their affable frontman Rob, the band delivered full power from the get-go, and he started demanding audience participation pretty early in their set. Their brutal metalcore/hardcore sound was perfectly suited for those willing to move among the already quite big audience. And so it came that the crowd demanded a wall of death pretty soon, which the band obviously didn’t oppose. Rob, who impressed with perfect German, pointed out that, if it was going to be done, it had to be done right, which resulted in the biggest wall of death of the afternoon. Now there was no stopping the crowd and a massive circle pit ensued, which lasted surprisingly long. Rob kept asking for more crowdsurfers to keep the security busy, and the audience was happy to oblige. The bouncers eventually got seriously nervous when Rob decided to climb down into the audience to sing “The New Hate” together with his fans. The show was at boiling point. The choice of songs, with a focus on the more recent material, was very wise too. Besides all the fun, which people were clearly having, Rob also touched upon some serious problems of our society. To sum it up, the gig had all the ingredients of a great hardcore show.
As openers of the tent stage UNLIGHT naturally had a difficult task at hand. While there was bright sunshine outside, only a few festivalgoers had found their way into the already overheated tent, and the fact that UNLIGHT’s uncompromising black metal only appeals to a select audience made things even harder. However, it didn’t take long until the first banging heads could be deen in the audience. Visibly thrilled and motivated by the constant stream of people into the tent, the band from Freiburg stepped things up a notch, climaxing in the song “Carnal Baptism”. The audience properly honored the band’s performance now. Although known for their rather modest stage acting, the band flourished to unimagined energy levels. UNLIGHT led the way through the rest of the set in a raw, fast and grim fashion. Left in the end was a crowd of sweaty yet satisfied fans, who bid a fitting farewell to the band.
EPICA were one of the surprises of the day. Led by frontwoman Simone Simons, whose bright smile could rival even the sun, EPICA delivered a top-notch show, starting – almost as a tradition – with “Obsessive Devotion”. The Dutchmen’s (and woman’s) enthusiasm seemed contagious as the area facing the Pain Stage quickly filled up in the early afternoon. Technically, the band was absolutely precise, and vocalist Simone was in great form, delivering a wonderful contrast to growler Mark Jansen. As usual, the concentration of hits in their set was pretty high, and the band’s enthusiasm transferred to the audience more and more. The result was people starting to chant “EPICA!” only after a few songs – with free goosebumps on top! When the closing “Consign To Oblivion” started, the only possible conclusion was that this band can effortlessly hold its own on a big festival like this.
Metalcore wasn’t exactly omnipresent at this edition of SUMMER BREEZE, much less German-sung metalcore. Many of those who had made BORN FROM PAIN’s show such a big celebration earlier on probably wandered into the tent to bestow a similar reception on NARZISS. The intro started a little earlier than 4 PM, with the band probably just as impatient as the masses facing the stage. The band’s first words and sounds immediately provoked a reaction in the audience despite the oppressive heat, resulting in a circle pit by song number three – which also generated a cloud of dust above the crowd; after four days of extreme strain there was hardly any grass left on the ground. The singer appeared in a stylish, light blue Reinhard Kleist shirt, while his colleagues were wearing the more genre-typical black clothes. Some low road cases had been places between the monitors and the edge of the stage, which provided the band members with the possibility to pose on an elevated surface. Singer Alexander Bartsch dedicated the song “Verblasst” to all “girls and hippies” out there. The shouter was also busy providing the sweaty fans in the front rows with bottles of water, not forgetting his band mates either; first he spat water on his bassist’s nape, then on his croth, as he knelt behind him. Pretty hot show, this!
Saturday, 4:30 PM, time for power metal! The last time the friendly guys from BRAINSTORM last played the festival, it was still being carried out in Abtsgmünd, and thus they were highly motivated from the beginning. As a warm welcome greeting, their hometown fans unfolded a giant flag of the city of Gerstetten, and it felt like being in a football stadium. Also otherwise someone had obviously worked on an appropriate setting, with an impressive backdrop, matching sidedrops and even a cover for the drumriser. The band also made a monolithic impression, not just musically, but also visually, ass all the band members were wearing identic shirts with their last name and position written on the back. Once more, Andy B. Franck played the perfect host – the guy would be able to sell mince beef to a vegetarian – but the audience didn’t make it exactly hard for him to control the situation either, willingly participating in all the clapping and singalong exercises. The view from the stage showed a clear line of separation in the crowd, namely the shadow border. The shade provided by the stage was full of people (no wonder, with shade AND power metal to be had!), while in the sun there was a lot of free room. Classic riffs with bite, superb bass work and a tight drummer, the BRAINSTORM machine purring along, delivering one hit after another to the willing crowd. “Shiva’s tears” had a bit of an oriental touch and the quiet “End In Sorrow”, carried by Toni Ievas’ earthy bass, had a great reception.
Don’t let WAYLANDER’s looks confuse you: Although they might look a bit like William Wallace in their blue warpaint, they actually hail from Ireland. Musically, the risk of confusion is a smaller one, because their folk elements do indeed sound a bit reminiscent of their fellow countrymen Mel Mordha, although less dramatic. WAYLANDER enrich their sound with traditional folk instruments and manage to get some original facets out of the rather oversaturated folk/pagan metal boom. Nothing much can go wrong with a concept like that nowadays anyway. The euphoric crowd reactions prove that this band is not just a faceless clone. Constantly – and vehemently – songs are demanded, and all lyrics get the perfect singalong treatment. All in all, a successful show by an interesting band.
EVERGREEN TERRACE may have borrowed their name from the Simpsons, but this is far from being a comedy band. Theirs is an interesting mix of modern hardcore with melodic elements. Thanks to the melodic vocals of guitarist Craig Chaney their songs acquire a very special vibe. Shouter Andrew Carey, on the other hand, mostly just screams into the mic quite nastily. The band was visibly moved by the crowd approval as Carey paraphrased the Type O Negative / Neil Young song “Summer Breeze makes me feel fine!” Maybe because they were having so much fun, they rewarded the audience with a brand new song from their upcoming album. The title of the track is “Enemy Sex”, and it blended seamlessly with the material from the hit album “Wolfbiker”. During the show, an oversized beach ball was constantly being tossed around above the audience, which didn’t seem exactly typical for a metal show. The band really went for it throughout their whole set, with all band members jumping around on stage like crazy. Frontman Carey couldn’t resist the temptation to seek closer contact with the audience, climbing over the barrier to keep shouting from among his fans. Besides their original material, the band also played the Tears For Fears cover “Mad World”. An absolutely gripping show and a welcome variation on the festival bill.
EGF rocked the house! The absolutely unique comedy grinders had invited to the comfy tent, and legions of fans followed the call. No wonder, as the grindcore-fun-machine is a guarantee for a good time packed into short, most entertaining noise orgies. For those who find J.B.O. too tame, the GRINDFUCKERS are just perfect. Their hilarious lyrics, in which they make fun of pretty much everybody, their fast, snottily delivered songs and their hyperactive appearance made them go over great with the fans, no matter if the song at hand was a completely butchered cover version or a creation of their own. The tent crowd went mad, and the ones to deal with it were the bouncers, who had to fish out one crowdsurfer after another. Please note: A little grind is fine! And original member Him showed that it even works with a trumpet as he played the intro melody to the cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” – “The Final Grinddown” – on this rather atypical instrument. Once again, the EXCREMENTORY GRINDFUCKERS seemed pretty well rehearsed yet raw at the same time, so boredom never reared its ugly head. And can you name one band that gets awarded an inflatable paddling pool during one of their shows?
Almost at the same time as in 2006, but on Saturday instead of Thursday, MOONSPELL got up on the Main Stage. The Portuguese had an easy time getting the audience on their side with their inimitable dark anthems. For 20 years now and like no other band around, they manage to create an almost tangible darkness through their emotional songs. It was this special atmosphere of the show, which was highly professional as usual, but very passionate at the same time, that provided this goosebump-inducing feeling again. MOONSPELL were extremely tight and well-rehearsed, effortlessly navigating between aggressive and dramatic stage acting. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro was obviously the eye-catcher during the whole show as he emphasized every sillable with his facial expressions and his almost theatrical gestures. Almost all of the songs, such as “Opium”, “Scorpion Flower”, “Vampiria”, “Alma Mater” and the final “Full Moon Madness”, had the crowd singing along loudly. At the end of the aforementioned show closer, Ribeiro took a pair of drumsticks, helping out drummer Mike Gaspar on the cymbals.
With Poland’s HATE you get the impression you are watching a Behemoth twin band. Why? Firstly, the Poles play a mix of death and black metal, secondly, they have a weakness for corpse paint, and thirdly, they like to wear long, dark kilts, exactly the same as Behemoth’s Nergal. It may all be a coincidence, but all these semblances did suggest that the epigone was not quite as good as the original, which unfortunately was the case with HATE most of the time. Their songs were mainly played in mid-tempo, only seldom they sped up a bit to hint at what they could actually be capable of. They hardly achieved the impressive tightness of their fellow countrymen either. What was left in the end was an OK gig without big surprises and the feeling that the band could improve a lot with a little more self-confidence.
This band is a true phenomenon! For years the Dutchmen worked their arses off under the name Occult, getting little in return – especially after the departure of their singer Rachel. In 2004 the band reformed under their new monicker, and since then, everything is working out great for LEGION OF THE DAMNED. Good album sales figures, numerous festival appearances, many tours – the whole shebang. Their rise in poularity has been enormous, and, to be honest, the legion goddamn deserved it. Their catchy, straight-ahead thrash with a latent death metal influence, which never denies its proximity to early Slayer, was exactly what the crowd of fans before the stage was dying for. Right from the start, many heads started to rotate and the first few circle pits ensued. Singer Maurice, who bears a certain resemblance to The Addams Fanily’s Cousin Itt, didn’t have to ask long to get a gigantic circle pit going. Once more, the oranje thrashers were in top form, precise, potent, powerful and always straight to the point. The razor sharp riffs and Maurice’s charismatic vocals deserve a special mention, while stage acting wise the gentlemen were mainly content staying on their spots and banging their heads. But hey, the same has worked for Slayer for years!
Before their new album, which is being released these days, surprisingly made it to position #1 in Metal Hammer, hardly anyone had ever heard of this Finnish band. Their debut album had been more of an insider’s tip, and if you met the band members off stage, you probably wouldn’t have guessed they were actually musicians – and what passion they play with! Almost timidly, they snuck on the unadorned stage (no backdrop etc.) wearing their everyday clothes, picked up their instruments and got started. Singer Manne’s appearance is somewhere in between sullen and shy, but when he used the mic, the short guy actually achieved big things. His vocals were increasingly melodic on the new songs, intensely aggressive during the shouted bits. This band grips you in no time and takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride. Quiet, almost acoustic parts met overwhelmingly powerful walls of guitars, while the band members banged their heads in abandon. The drummer sat absent-minded behind his kit, visibly having fun playing the songs. Despite competing with the huge Volbeat on the Main Stage, the tent filled up more and more, and the audience was shocked when the band members left the stage five minutes ahead of schedule. However, the six Finns returned swiftly to celebrate the climaxing “Lost In A Loop”. The band managed what other, bigger bands couldn’t achieve this year; their performance transmitted powerful feelings – between melancholy and rage – to the elctrified audience. This was definitely one of the festival’s very big surprises.
VOLBEAT is one of those bands that has grown through and with the festival. Each one of their appearances so far has also inaugurated a new period in their career. Something would have to be seriously wrong if, after this show, they didn’t climb another step up the career ladder. To cut straight to the point: Tonight VOLBEAT rocked everything to the ground. Before they had even picked up their instruments, the Danes were greated with a wave of loud “VOLBEAT!” chants. Then they went straight for it, and frontman Poulsen proved once more he’s the perfect entertainer. The boys played with great enthusiasm, showing they have the interaction with the crowd down to a T, which resulted in the bouncers being almost overwhelmed by the numbers of bodies surfing towards them. One of the peaks and visual highlight of the show was the appearance of Pernille Rosendahl around the middle of the set. Dressed in a semitransparent dress and 10cm high-heels, she swept across the stage, belting out the grandiose “Mary Ann’s Place” together with Poulsen. VOLBEAT know how to get the audience to give it all, with several circle pits going on at the same time. The band also gave a little appetizer for their new album in the form of a brand new track. No matter if the song at hand was from one of their previous albums or a new one, the show was just full of superlatives and should enter the annals of the festival. The Slayer riff at the end was also a cool gimmick. Taking the sheer quantity of crowdsurfers as a standard, this show should stay unsurpassed for eternity. Together with Amon Amarth, VOLBEAT were the undisputed kings of the festival!
It’s not easy to write a report about a whole EVOCATION gig if one song stays in your head and prevents you from concentrating even hous after the show. Holy shit, “Feed The Fire” really is a live killer! But obviously this should be about more than those four minutes. The other songs from the band’s two albums also blew the people against the tent walls. Tight, enthusiastic and in high spirits, the boys didn’t take no prisoners. Despite the huge gap in the band biography, they have managed to secure their place between Dismember and Entombed on European stages in a very short time, a place that should have belonged to them 15 years ago. Luckily, so far they have avoided to adapt their Stockholm sound to supposed market requirements or “enrich” it with clean vocals or other nonsense. In the tent, EVOCATION proved once more that they can be successful without such compromises. Keep the flames burning, guys – FEED THE FIRE!
No one could really see this coming, VOIVOD at SUMMER BREEZE. Firstly, because the Canadians have never really been among the hardest touring bands, and secondly, because the original – and virtually irreplaceable – guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour died of colon cancer in 2005. Many were surprised at first about the band being booked and about their position in the line-up and the related stage time, yet one should not forget that SUMMER BREEZE is a festival made by fans for fans. And fans VOIVOD obviously still have quite a few, because the area facing the Pain Stage was totally crowded by the time the band went on stage. The following hour just flew by. The beginning with “Voivod” was pretty much preprogrammed, but when the band started playing “Tribal Convictions” four songs into the set, many of the attendees probably felt like trapped in a time warp. This song made the class and uniqueness of this band and its material clear. New guitarist Daniel Mongrain did a great job, it was an unexpected gift to see Blacky playing the bass again, and Snake is a man of stature not only due to his height. They were visibly enjoying the show and you couldn’t help but feeling torn between wanting an album of entirely new material or not. In its 27 years of history the band has never repeated itself and always surprised. For someone unfamiliar with the band’s material, this crazy ride through genres like industrial, thrash, punk, progressive and electronica might have seemed confusing, but most of those watching the show probably dug out their old VOIVOD LPs first thing back home!
The following band has only existed for a few months under the BURY ME DEEP monicker, but Leshi Love and his Darkbrothers have been playing as THE FUGE for over ten years already, although the band never really played a lot of shows. Hopefully the renaming will help change this, too! Michelle Darkness, also frontman of End Of Green, is the eye-catcher of this Swabian band. Stylistically, BURY ME DEEP fit in the same genre – the ingredients are basically similar, although the proportion of dark melancholy versus driving gothic rock is different from Michelle’s main band. BURY ME DEEP are quieter and more reflective, their songs seem less self-destructive than End Of Green’s, and they leave room for a little touch of pop here and there. However, Leshi, Michelle & Co. know how to present their mix of rocking vibes and subtle sadness on stage with sleepwalking confidence, taking the listeners from one emotional extreme to the other. From the beautiful ballad “The Angel’s Handshake”, passing through driving rock songs such as “Like Little Souls” and “Cobalt blue Light”, to the hit “Burn My Soul”, the title of which delivers a stark contrast to the song’s positive feeling, BURY ME DEEP left nothing to be desired. Except for a full tour, but that can still happen in the future. During the signing session there was already a lot of interest in the band, and the numerous attendees can consider themselves part of the illustrious circle of people who have had the chance to witness one of the band’s rare performances.
OPETH were the last band of the festival on the Main Stage. And the prog gods’ motto for this evening was clearly “Less is more!”, because the stage was kept largely unadorned except for a simple backdrop, which had the positive effect of channeling everyone’s attention right to the musicians. OPETH may not necessarily be a festival band, but this evening – and in front of this impressive crowd – their show worked fantastically. Even the more progressive songs were gratefully taken in by the audience, despite some obvious technical problems at the beginning of the set. Still, OPETH are and always will be the measure for technical perfection. Even the partly extremely long yet entertaining announcements by Mr. Åkerfeldt didn’t have a negative impact on the show, but fit the overall concept of this musical master class quite well. One of the things that we learned was that OPETH would soon return with a new album and Katatonia as their support for some shows in Germany. Visibly excited by the crowd’s reactions, the band eventually reached their usual form towards the end of the set, proving they fully deserve their current status and that challenging music doesn’t only work in a club setting. After nearly 80 minutes Mikael Åkerfeldt and his cohorts finished an impressive set to almost supererogatory crowd reactions, a fitting finale on the Main Stage for a weekend full of highlights.
DAGOBA’s appearance at SUMMER BREEZE 2007 was obviously well-remembered as they belonged to the positive surprises of the festival that year. Although this time they went on stage on the last day at the penultimate position, apparently many fans had saved their energy, giving the friendly Frenchmen a warm welcome as they launched into their set after an intro. But even those who were just passing by were immediately captivated by their precisely grooving modern metal with a certain industrial appeal. With their passionate performance, which included almost inhuman headbanging, and the respective crowd reactions, DAGOBA and the audience wound each other up until reaching a state of near-ecstasy. At least the 45 minutes stage time flew by, and one can only hope this wasn’t the last time frontman Shawter and his crew visited Dinkelsbühl.
It’s hard to believe that this band was actually formed by members of much heavier bands, such as Dissection, because the guys who took the stage at midnight looked like the term “metrosexual” had been invented just for them. At least none of the band members hid their feminine side. Vocalist Whiplasher Bernadotte, for instance, had more glitter in his hair than what had been used on the whole festival site over the entire weekend, and – just like his colleagues – was wearing pale make-up with loads of blood-red lipstick. Accordingly, there were relatively many women in the audience. Besides such superficialities, the band knows how to rock the crowd, and their show was pure entertainment, with stupid amounts of rockstar poses and no boredom in sight… At the start of the set all the band members were wearing identical tight black shirts, but the massive bassist and one of the guitarists soon took theirs off, which was met with loud cheers by the audience. The band was definitely in a humorous mood, as according to Whiplasher there were some “problems with heterosexuality on stage”, and he even took part in some daft squirt gun fights. Their material – between massive Rammstein riffing and gothic rock – proved once again to be extremely direct, and the closing hour went by way too quickly. Who messed with the clock? No, it was really that late!
While the DEATHSTARS played the last show of the festival on the Pain Stage, SECRETS OF THE MOON closed the festival on the Party Stage. Submerged in red light, the Osnabrück black metal institution celebrated their definition of the genre, which in 2009 is heavy, tough and complex. Three of the five songs on offer, “Sulphur Pulse”, “Queen Among Rats” and “Black Halo”, were culled from their new album, “Privilegivm”, due in September. A bold move, as the audience couldn’t possibly know them. The rest of the set was part of the current, rather controversial album “Antithesis”, the stylistical continuation of which is “Privilegivm”. Faster songs, such as the ones on the excellent “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” album, weren’t played at all – unfortunately including the sensational “To The Ultimate Embers And Ash”. Instead, SECRETS OF THE MOON attempted an extreme tour de force which – at this point of the festival – definitely took some major balls. Although lacking a bit of variation, the gig’s dramaturgical staging was perfect. And that, again, was pretty impressive.