For Stuttgart’s DEBAUCHERY, an appearance at SUMMER BREEZE is almost like a home match, which could easily be noticed by the respectably-sized crowd that had already gathered in front of the stage at such an early hour. The area between the stage and the sound desk was full of people, who looked surprisingly fit considering it was day four of the festival. Those who were still suffering from the consequences of last night’s partying were definitely woken up by DEBAUCHERY with their brutally grooving death metal. Their low-tuned killer riffs and sadistic growls were quite reminiscent of the previosu day’s Six Feet Under show. In the front rows there were many banging heads, and towards the back they were nodding in approval. Visually the bands red-stained faces and torsos were also a sight to behold. Unfortunately this time the popular strip dancer was missing.
For ten years Krefeld’s JAPANISCHE KAMPFHÖRSPIELE have been terrorizing the European grindcore scene. Their good underground reputation was also a plus at SUMMER BREEZE, as all fans who had been watching DEBAUCHERY moved to the Main Stage, and there was even further affluence of public. JAKA didn’t need to be asked twice and delivered a grindcore massacre of the first degree. Ultra fast blast beats alternated with grueling grooves. At times it was highly technical and complex, at others direct and in your face. The eyecatcher was definitely the shouter with his pink-dyed hair and beard, who growled, spit and squealed the German lyrics into the mic. The fans in the front rows went completely mad and were even able to complete the frontman’s announcements. A great show by a very special band, who thanked the audience nicely after it was over.
THE OLD DEAD TREE is a band that certainly captivates through its musical diversity and high quality. The Frenchmen’s sound is somewhere in between melodic doom/death/gothic and progressive metal, with which they have created their very own niche in the metal universe. The band had no problem in replicating their very complex and highly emotional songs in a live situation under a bright sun. These wonderful, bitter-sweet melodies were a nice contrast to the preceding bands, Debauchery and Japanische Kampfhörspiele. The melancholic component of the dynamic songs was excellently transported by the band, which, together with singer Manuel’s heart-rending voice, provided for many a goosebump moment despite the warm temperatures. Among others, the songs “Dive” from their current album, “The Water Fields”, “It Can’t Be” and – the absolute über-song – “We Cry As One” were passionately interpreted.
Holland’s AUTUMN had recently had to cope with a fundamental line-up change. Unfortunately, singer Nienke de Jong had to leave the band for health reasons, being replaced by Marjan Welman. However, Marjan’s standing with the band is so strong it seems she had always been part of it. Her powerful voice was absoultely convincing and her stageacting was secure and likeable. The band’s take on gothic rock clearly differs from their peers’, sounding much more fresh and straight. Here and there it was even reminiscent of “Mandylion”-era The Gathering. The instrumentalists mostly rocked straight ahead with striking riffs. As any good host would do, guitarist Jens van der Valk got rid of his tie towards the middle of the set, which means that his guests would have to do the same – at least there were no ties to be seen in the audience afterwards. Compared to JaKa, the crowd had visibly dwindled to a pretty small group of people. Most people were probably warming up the obligatory cans of ravioli for breakfast.
Probably the youngest band of the festival, HACKNEYED had an easy time convincing the mostly older members of the audience. Despite the early hour, a huge crowd of people had gathered at the Pain Stage to welcome Germany’s next generation of death metal upstarts. The band made use of this opportunity and fired the first warning shot into the audience in the form of “Axe Splatter”. When “Gut Candy” hit next, all doubters must have realized that the band’s success is not only due to their young age. The boys played in such a professional and secure manner that it was made absolutely clear there was a serious death metal contender on stage, who will still make much noise in the future. Besides a selection of songs from their current album “Death Prevails”, HACKNEYED already had two new songs “Symphony Of The Damned” and “Finger On The Trigger”, ready for the SUMMER BREEZE audience. In the end, the band was rewarded with long-lasting chants of “HACKNEYED!”
Despite it being early afternoon, somehow the sky suddenly turned darker. ENDSTILLE had gathered a huge crowd in front of the Main Stage to shroud them in a dark vesture of black metal. The band led by frontman Iblis was frenetically welcomed as he started the show with a grim face, claiming the day’s black metal throne from the very beginning. The following 40 minutes were a musical thunderstorm, which probably shook even the town of Dinkelsbühl a few kilometers away. Besides “The One I Hate” and the mandatory “Endstilles Reich”, the bulldozing “Navigator” marked the higlight of the set. The intensity with which ENDSTILLE’ attacked Dinkelsbühl could be felt to the last man. A professional show which more than lived up to the status the band has reached.
One of the hottest bands of the hour are probably Norway’s KEEP OF KALESSIN, whose Nuclear Blast debut “Kolossus” made a huge impact on the scene and was widely praised in the press. At SUMMER BREEZE these hopefuls proved that they absolutely live up to the expectations. During the intro “Origin”, which was played from tape, band leader, songwriter and guitarist Obsidian C. joined in live, playing along to the soulful melody. Just like on record, the track gave way to “A New Empire’s Birth”. The epic/monumental, diverse and powerful melodic black metal actually worked pretty well by daylight. Complex tracks such as “Crown Of The Kings”, “Many Are We” and “Come Damnation” (from the “Reclaim” EP) were delivered in a precise and sovereign manner. Obsidian C. slightly changed a few riffs and leads, spontaneously adorning them with small technical details of his virtuoso guitar work. Who needs a second guitarist?
Swedish death pioneers DISMEMBER are always a true phenomenon. After a four-year hiatus and a twenty-year band history, the band led by Matti Kärki is again, or rather still, omnipresent, making the hearts of death metal fans everywhere beat faster in excitement. The same happened on this sunny festival afternoon. The well chosen songs came sounding rough and crisp through the PA. Technically flawless, the gentlemen on stage melded older songs such as “Sickening Art” from their debut “Like An Ever Flowing Stream” with current tracks like “Combat Fatigue” into an explosive concoction. Absolutely no one could escape the Swedes’ spell, which slowly but surely reached every single mosher on the ground. After about 45 minutes it was all over, giving the security a breather after the insane numbers of bodies they pulled out of the crowd. Grandiose!
Probably quite a few festivalgoers had to struggle with the sleep disorder that this band chose for a monicker… A few days ago “Exit”, the sophomore album by avantgarde black metal band AGRYPNIE, had been released. What could possibly be better than presenting the brand new tracks to such a huge crowd? The tent was over half full when the first sounds of the intro started and Torsten “der Unhold” and his live crew entered the stage. The set started with “Und Führet Mich Nicht In Versuchung” from the debut album “F51.4”, which had been recorded still as a solo project. Compared to their first live shows, AGRYPNIE now sound tighter and more professional. The cold riffs combined with the charismatic screams and the intelligent, expressive German lyrics immediately created a great atmosphere with goosebumps included. The band was highly motivated and also the crowd was immediately into it, singing along verse by verse. Off “Exit”, the band played the tracks “Mauern” and the extra-long, incrdibly varied “Fenster Zum Hof”, which both enjoyed a great reception by the fans. Unfortunately, the band had to leave without an encore due to the time.
Those who have seen this band live already know about the five-piece’s superb live qualities and were able to mentally prepare for the impending wall of death. The destructive start came with “Spearheading The Spawn”, which was also a statement of intent – full power ahead, live without a net. Vocalist Benny Hilleke walked up and down the stage as usual and would probably have become a millionaire had he got kilometer allowance for this memorable gig. What followed was the biggest wall of death this festival had ever seen. During “Armamentarium” the frontman divided the horde into halves and the first tones were the starting shot. But that wasn’t all. After “Let The Tempest Come” the band actually managed to create a circle pit that moved around the sound tower! NEAERA really made the audience move and accompanyed the proceedings with brutal salvos of metalcore. There’s no way around this band nowadays.
Finland’s ENSIFERUM had no problem in drawing a massive crowd to the Main Stage in the early evening. Dressed with kilts, with naked torsos and warpaint in their faces, the band started a boozy party with their folk-tinged melodies and pagan rhythms. No surprise then that besides loads of drinking horns there were also many crowdsurfers above the crowd’s heads. At least the bouncers had a lot of work. The band proved that the wall of death is not exclusively for hardcore/metalcore concerts, as they initiated two during their set. The atmosphere was great, and the band was technically flawless. ENSIFERUM played the pagan metal hymns “Token Of Time”, “Lai Lai Hei”, “Battle Song” and many more. At the end the band even played a part of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”. What was the title of the last ENSIFERUM album again? “Victory Songs”, which could also be used to describe their show.
NME.MINE are a rather exotic band for a pure metal festival like SUMMER BREEZE. The energetic show by the band from Biberach was top notch though, so it became a real success. After a quick soundcheck the boys started their thirty-minute set with a brand new song. Unfortunately the tent wasn’t really full, but the band carried on unimpressed and played their arses off as if they were the headliners of the main stage. Again the eyecatcher was the colossal frontman Patrick, who earned a few smiles in the audience with his smart but not-too-serious stage raps and kept the crowd permanently motivated. Pretty soon a small pit formed, and the faces in the front row were like spellbound. The extremely agile frontman also displayed a great voice as he delivered brutal shouts with the same confidence as the more melodic parts. The eight songs forming the set were drawn in equal parts from older material from their last Roadrunner album “Life Without Water” and brand new tracks. A bold move, but it worked for the band, as the new songs captivated the audience just like the better known material. NME.MINE were definitely one of the festival’s insider’s tips, too bad most people didn’t realize this.
Following was a concentrated power metal attack, and it was about time, as this style was quite underrepresented at this year’s BREEZE. So it was just the right stuff for the hungry fans. The five-piece led by Mat Sinner and Ralf Scheepers came, saw and conquered. This power metal intermezzo was a welcome change from the dominant modern and death metal sounds. Mr. Scheepers used all the usual heavy metal clichés, often forming his guitar army around him for collective posing. An especially memorable moment was the great power ballad “Fighting The Darkness”, with almost the entire crowd singing along, providing for a real goosebump moment. Not less spectacular were classics such as “Nuclear Fire”, which provided a massive wall of sound. There was only one thing to observe about “Mr. Drum Himself”, Randy Black: Even though his kit looked like a castle, it was awesome to watch him brilliantly work this monster with a smile on his face and visibly loads of fun. The closing “Metal Is Forever” went straight ahead again, finishing the set in a great mood for all those involved.
Looking back in time, the last few years it was often French bands who unexpectedly caused the most excitement and dropped jaws. Just think of Gojira or Dagoba. From now on, HACRIDE can be added to that list. They presented an interesting and absolutely powerful mix of spherical and complex/brutal parts, which inevitably draw comparisons to Meshuggah, Strapping Young Lad and also Gojira. Added to the brilliant material on offer was an equally brilliant performance. Completely dressed in black, the band members sometime couldn’t even be noticed in front of the backdrop of the same color, but they were extremely committed to their show. The most active member was the short-haired frontman Samuel, barking and shouting in front of his backing colleagues with one bass and (only) one guitar. In the course of their set they captivated more and more fans, and the show can be described as a total success. Among the exceptionally talented musicians it was especially drummer Olivier who mastered his intricate patterns with surprising ease and on top was responsible for triggering different sounds.
No one knew how the band led by frontman Henning would go over among all the metal bands. To cut right to the chase, it worked great! In a tornado of straw and saw dust the H-BLOCKX created a sound wall of old and new party smashers, which were thankfully received as a welcome relaxation for the ears. Even though it had been quiet in the Münster band’s camp for a while, they hadn’t forgotten a damn thing, knowing how to react in every situation. Thanks to their professionalism, even rather unknown songs from their current album “Open Letter To A Friend” went over great. As expected, it was the classic “Move” that got the masses really moving. All the way to the sound desk there was nothing but dancing. To keep the wave going, the band finished this rather unusual gig with two further hits, “Revolution” and “Risin’ High” from their debut album. Considering the not-so-favorable circumstances it was a great show!
Also hailing from Münster were MISERY SPEAKS, who delivered a total metalcore attack in the tent during the early evening. However, the “core” component can almost not be made out in their sound any more. The band has mutated into a pure death metal band, skillfully combining elements from the Scandinavian and American schools of this sound. Right after the first song the band had to sttruggle with some technical problems, so the bassist just grabbed a mic and grunted some backing vocals during the following song, while his techs solved the problem on his instrument. Soon enough the bass was back on, and the band was able to carry on with its full capacity. Over the rest of the set they moshed everything into the ground. By that time, the tent had filled up nicely and there was a good-sized circle pit going. The frontman kept firing up the audience so that, by the end of the set, everyone in the tent had headbanged at least once. Summing it up, the band could be really satisfied with their appearance.
Probably no other modern metal band has had such a steep rise as Sweden’s sonic syndicate in the last few years. Out of nowhere, their Nuclear Blast debut made it to number 64 in the German album charts, and the soon-to-be-released successor “Love And Other Disasters” should be able to top that easily. Interest in the band could be sensed by the masses of fans impatiently waiting for show start at the Pain Stage. For the young band, these masses were morethan welcome, because their gig – as their frontman unnecessarily pointed out – was being filmed for a DVD release. The singer had the crowd firmly in his grip fro the get-go, effortlessly getting them to participate in the required “DVD” chants and to wave their arms. But it would have been hard not to fall for the band’s energetic show; even though the Pain Stage was almost too small for the number of musicians, they happily delivered their choreographed show, which included switching sides and jumping in synchronicity. Even the cute bassist Karin took part in the intense headbanging along with her male colleagues. The advance single “Jack Of Diamonds” granted a neak peak into the new material, getting an equally euphoric reception as the rest of the songs. What looked quite bizarre was the throwing of straw bushels within the audience, which seemed like a lot of fun.
Formed as early as 1988, France’s MISANTHROPE are a real insider’s tip in the scene, which may have to do with the fact that this was their first gig in Germany ever. Their original mix of progressive melodic death metal and a strong hard rock influnce, which also included hints of jazz and especially classical, gained an almost shocked reception at times. The multi-layerd, almost too diverse music with its hundreds of breaks also included melodic, “widdly” leads and sequenced keyboards. MISANTHROPE played their intricate songs with technical precision and were one of the festival’s loudest bands – at least in the tent. The Frenchmen were always moving, seemed very motivated and created a rather bizarre, very special atmosphere.
It was HEAVEN SHALL BURN’s third time at SUMMER BREEZE already, with their position in the bill moving up from year to year. Now they were actually co-headliners on the main stage. The band’s development over the last few years has been just amazing. For the first time they had an impressive, slightly more elaborate stage set which included four illuminated posts and a huge backdrop. Uniformed in scarlet shirts and black trousers, the band entered the stage and started right away with the opener of their current album “Endzeit”. The crowd, covering the whole area in front of the stage, started raging from the very first note. Marcus Bischoff, HSB’s likeable frontman, fired up the audience even more when he announced that the show was being filmed for a DVD. Early on the crowd started to demand a wall of death, and Bischoff didn’t have to be asked twice. What ensued was the largest wall of death this festival has ever seen… and it wasn’t the only one! The crowd blindly followed Bischoff’s instructions. The festival site quaked when the whole crowd started jumping up and down, and later Bischoff changed the rules of the wall of death, instructing the audience to go back right after the first wall and form another one. The game was carried out throughout the whole song “Voice Of The Voiceless”. In a humble manner and visibly impressed, Bischoff thanked the audience, telling them this show was a dream come true for him. The regular set ended with the Edge Of sanity cover “Black Tears”, but the band obviously returned for an encore. Of the whole festival, this was definitely the highlight in terms of audience reactions. Those who missed it should definitely watch out for the Thuringians’ upcoming DVD.
After MISANTHROPE things got a lot more straight-forward with Italy’s dark metallers NOVEMBRE. The band is guarantee for an ambitious, highly atmospheric, dynamic and progressive mix of dark, doom and gothic metal, which they demonstrated on their last album “The Blue”, which enjoyed a great reception from press and fans. In the tent, NOVEMBRE presented themselves as true grand masters of their genre, delivering a musical and emotional rollercoster ride. From loud, raging outbursts to quiet, depressive abysses, they covered the whole spectrum of the dark side of existence. The diverse, highly melodic yet extremely heavy compositions were euphorically received by the audience. In the front rows it was headbanging galore, and each song gained lots of applause. Especially singer Carmelo Orlando’s varied, emotional vocals, which alternated between a clean wail and dark growl, were extremely captivating and really touched the soul. A bitter-sweet trip in a still young and definitely eventful night.
After the main stage had its first headliner of the day, the Pain Stage followed suit. And the German thrash institution DESTRUCTION really pulled all the stops to live up to this status, from the stage set (huge backdrop and sidedrops with matching design) to various pyro effects (explosions, columns of fire, rain of sparks, etc.). But cult icon Schmier and his cohorts also lit a musical fireworks display and a tour de force through all the highlights of their 25-year career. After “Nailed To The Cross” there was a further climax when the Mad Butcher came on stage in the flesh. Obviously well-known from several of their album covers, the character wasn’t on his own, as he dragged three lightly (or rather hardly) dressed female victims on stage. Two of them were in chains and the other he effortlessly carried over his shoulder. That’s when the thrash maniacs in the audience really went insane, although the crowd reactions were obviously no match for the preceding HEAVEN SHALL BURN on the main stage. Also very cool was the singer’s statement against sectarianism in metal, which was followed accordingly by “United By Hatred”.
The rough heavy rockers were one of the festival’s many susprises. Not really groundbreaking in musical terms, they managed to convince due to a passionate performance and especially their super cool singer Ralf Gyllenhammar, who obviously knew how to rock a crowd. He charmingly flirted with the audience using his rudimentary German, almost reaching the level of the current king of stage raps, the vocalist in CEPHALIC CARNAGE. Highlights were sentences like “Alles gut? Alles klar? AUTOBAHN!” and “Supperrock aus Schweden! MUSTASCH! Wir lieben Dir!”. The crowd completely surrendered to the band, and in retrospect it’s not surprising at all that in their home country they are regularly at the top of the charts. Even age-old crowd participation games like the repeating of a “Lalala”-melody sung by the frontman worked great. He really pushed the audience to the limit, but demanded even more enthusiasm with the words “Sehr gut, aber Sie kannst Du ja besser!” A total triumph which will probably repeat itself on their forthcoming tour in the fall.
After HEAVEN SHALL BURN’s fulminant show it was obviously going to be hard for the actual headliners to top it. To go straight to the point: they didn’t. However, the band put an honorable and headliner-worthy end to the proceedings on the Main Stage. Besides the massive backdrop it was especially noticeable that there weren’t any amps on stage. These had been placed at the sides of the stages to allow more room. At both sides of the drums there were risers which were used by the female keyboardist / backing singer during her sporadic appearances. After a mystic intro, Dani Filth and his cohorts entered the stage, dressed in black leather and wearing pale make-up.”Dringe Inferno” was the fulminant set opener. What followed was a diverse best-of set covering the whole band history. Both newer material such as “Nymphetamine” and stuff like “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” from the debut album were played. In between, songs like “Dusk And Her Embrace”, “Her Ghost In The Fog”, “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” and “From The Cradle To Enslave”. The sound was absolutely flawless, and so were the band’s technical abilities and Dani’s nearly inhuman voice. After the regular set had finished the band came back for a couple fo encores. Then the show was over, but the band could actually have played for another 10 minutes according to schedule. A pity considering many fans would probably have liked to celebrate their heroes for a bit longer.
A snowman (which is what the band name means) on a summer festival? Not only in the band name department the guys from Linz are an exception to the rule. Austria’s doom rockers got up on stage during the best part of the partial moon eclipse, delivering an eerily beautiful melancholic metal attack. Shrouded in thick fog, they grooved through their set, unimpressed by sporadic technical problems in the form of a broken snare. They presented a well-balanced mix of well-known, older hits such as “Mother Mary Sleeps With Me” and a few tracks from their soon-to-be-released “My Own Private Hell” album. In a week from now they are going to be back in the area, namely at the Sickfest, End Of Green’s record release party. That’s why frontman Phred Phinster said goodbye to the fans with the imperative “See you next week!”
Over the last few years, the last band band to play the Pain Stage was usually of the more quiet and melancholic kind – remember the unforgettable shows by My Dying Bride and Katatonia – and the UK’s ANATHEMA followed the same pattern. ANATHEMA is a band that had been on the festival’s wish list for years, and so they delivered a memorable show, but maybe not exactly what the fans had expected. The band led by the Cavanagh brothers presented their more relaxed/funny side, constantly joking with each other to the point of imitating fart sounds! Their shows didn’t seem to be well thought-through either, as there didn’t seem to be a defined setlist, with the band deciding in between songs what to play next. The most intense song on offer was “A Natural Disaster”, where the band was joined by a female singer who caused waves of goosebumps with her voice. There were also a few sympathetic remarks made towards the crowd, who had had to endure four days of camping, and generally speaking hardly anything was the way one would have expected from this band. But this didn’t stem only from the band, as the bouncers played their part as well. Obviously underchallenged during the quiet moments, some of the guys with the red shirts went into the crowd and started crowdsurfing to be pulled back behind the barrier by their colleagues. And after Danny Cavanagh’s invitation to clap along didn’t quite work out, the bouncers were suddenly standing on the barrier forming a commanding clapping front, which was actually obeyed all the way back to the FOH. Visibly impressed, frontman Vincent had obviously never seen anything like it and made a point of thanking the security crew after the show. Then, during the last song, the Pink Floyd cover “Comfortably Numb”, the most bizarre meeting of the festival happened. Destruction’s Mad Butcher came back on stage wielding his axe and had a dance duell with the Anathema singer. They moved around as if in a well-choreographed swordplay scene, Cavanagh did some high kicks and pranced around the Butcher, who in turn delivered an accomplished robot breakdance – completely UNBELIEVABLE! Only at SUMMER BREEZE!!!
The night had got quite cold in the meantime, there was at least a partial moon eclipse, and it was well past the witching hour. Ideal conditions for grim black metal! With a slight delay DARK FORTRESS stepped in front of the anxiously awaiting fans to close the tent stage. Precise like a Swiss clock and with an incredible energy the band from Landshut hammered their ice-cold, captivating songs into the crowd. Their varied, anthemic songs alternated between total speed and driving mid-tempo. Despite all heaviness and brutality, however, there was always enough room for loads of chilling melodies, yet the songs didn’t lose any of their power. New singer Morean has a strong, dark, charismatic voice. Along with the rest of the band he delivered an energetic performance, making his predecessor Azathoth forgotten all too soon. Lots of fog and only green, blue and white light further underlined the cold, grim, nightmarish atmosphere. The use of recorded intermezzi in between song kept the tension up at all times. Definitely a worthy closure!