According to their likeable frontman, the band had only expected around 50 people in the audience at such an early hour. How wrong they were! The SUMMER BREEZE mob was obviously hot and more than ready to go, and CYRCUS played to a nicely filled tent despite the allegedly unfavorable position as festival openers, being welcomed with open arms after their Pulp Fiction intro. And the boys from North Rhine-Westphalia were obviously intent on using the situation to their advantage, as they seemed to take in the good mood, showing themselves in top form. Especially guitarist Andy moved about quite a lot, delivering perfect shouts at the same time, while singer and eyecatcher Chubby handled the melodic vocals and stage raps in a professional manner. Although at times reminiscent of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, the boys were far from being a mere clone. During the middle section of “Something’s Missing” the band interspersed an 80s metal flashback in the shape of WARLOCK’s “All We Are”, and the audience did their fair share, complete with circle pit and wall of death. A more than solid gig!
While already pretty crowded during CYRCUS’ set, SHEEPHEAD managed to draw even more people into the tent. The death metal steamroller from Pfaffenhofen took over a nicely warmed-up crowd, reduced the talk in between sogns to a minimum and put the pedal to the metal. Like a well-oiled machine and with loads of double kick sections, the band led by frontman Benni chugged through the six songs on their setlist. During the breaks in between songs the crowd vehemently demanded a wall of death and later even started chanting the band’s name. SHEEPHEAD sounded a bit like an IN FLAMES from past (and heavier) times, partly due their considerable technical abilities, although never forgetting to mix things up a bit with well-dosed melodic and grooving mid-tempo sections. During “The Plague” the singer couldn’t resist the temptation to seek direct contact to the fans in the front row and jumped down into the photo pit. A response from the audience came quickly in the shape of the first few crowdsurfers of the festival. No easy job for the jury then, as the second band was really tight, too!
DREAMSHADE from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland could even raise the numbers, although not really in front of the stage, but upon it instead, as there were six of them. However, there were far less people in the tent compared to the first few bands – maybe due to the long drive the band had behind them? Never mind, the boys didn’t let the situation spoil their good mood, and the audience was really into it, with fists staying up in the air throughout the whole set! The sextet was highly motivated, banging their heads at all time, and the singer did his best with his stage raps in English with a nice accent to win over the crowd. Their keaboard-driven sound wasn’t really everyone’s cup of tea, but the band will surely find its way, as the band members – maybe with the exception of the drummer – all are still really young and at the very start of their careers. They certainly did give it their all, as evidenced by keyboard player Rawi sitting in front of their dressing room practicing for a long while before the show.
The fourth band participating in the contest enjoyed a full tent again. A relatively long intro built up the atmosphere nicely, but the band inexplicably didn’t start right after and the whole momentum was lost. Unimpressed with the massive crowd, the band ignited a musical fireworks of sorts. In the vein of traditional melodic death akin to DARK TRANQUILLITY and boasting a pronounced Gothenburg influence, the boys managed to facinate the audience from the very first song. However, things didn’t stay in the realm of classic metal throughout the whole set, as the band interspersed their songs with seasonable bits of hardcore and potent breaks at the right moments. Self-confident with the knowledge they just produced an excellent album, the band from Sinsheim rocked like there was no tomorrow. Especially vocalist Attila reigned over the crowd with his charismatic voice, provoking the audience to chant the band monicker for the second time during this evening. With the motto “No fillers, just killers” the band raced through their set, making it clear they were ready to get signed. Strong performance by this young quintet.
Last but not least it was the turn of Austria’s SECOND RELATION, who amazed the crowd from the very first note. Cause for this excitement were neither extravagant stage clothes nor excpetional visuals, but the young age of this up-and-coming band. With none of the band members even having reached majority age, the boys proved their early musical education had paid off. Quite oviously inspired by OPETH yet far from just replicating their sound, SECOND RELATION trod on new paths, captivating the audience with their mainly quiet, progressive music. A major factor in the band’s enthralling appearance was singer and bassist Bastian’s youthful charme, which fascinated everyone attending their gig. Add to this the almost frightening instrumental perfection displayed by each and every one of the five musicians. Even with experienced musicians and after years of collaboration it is seldom to witness such an outstanding feeling in the interpretation of their own material. It was highly impressive how this extremely young band effortlessly managed to tantalize a raging metal audience.
Due to a very strong selection of participants it was far from easy for the members of the jury to agree on a winner. The jury was composed, among others, of writers of Metal.de and Metal Hammer, an A&R representative from Metal Blade Records and a female audience member who had won her place in the jury at an earlier prize draw. After a pertinent time for deliberation all participating band s were asked on stage again, where, following the presentation of the jury, Second Relation were pronounced winners of the contest, deservedly gaining them the opening slot for Thursday morning at SUMMER BREEZE 2009.
After SECOND RELATION had won the Newcomer Contest, the actual festival program started at 8PM sharp, with ONE-WAY MIRROR stylistically tying in with the first bands of the day. Without hesitation, the agile Frenchmen captivated the nicely warmed-up audience from the get-go with their modern, SOILWORKish metal. The Party Tent was still pretty full and the band seemed to be no strangers to most of the audience, as the songs were greeted like old friends. No wonder: Two of the band members, Guillaume Bideau (MNEMIC) and Dirk Verbeuren (SOILWORK, for instance), have a previous history of their own. The flawless sound, which granted the band a powerful low end and roaring guitars, helped to build a great atmosphere in the tent. Anthemic choruses alternated with thrashy parts and driving grooves, laying the foundation for singer Guillaume’s diverse vocals, which more then once sounded reminiscent of FAITH NO MORE’s Mike Patton. A convincing gig that made everybody hungry for more and decidedly refuted the old adage thal all beginnings are difficult.
The fog machine shrouds the Party Tent in a sweet-scented mist as RAZOR OF OCCAM get on stage to prove that it can also be done entirely differently. Gone is the candy-coated melody – beware the old school sledgehammer! Not surprising, taking into consideration that half of this band are members of DESTRÖYER 666, but there is a certain sense of anticipation. After a full ten years of band history the band has recently released their first full-length album on Metal Blade and are now standing on the Party Stage in the flesh, just about to fire rounds of their thrash-tinged old school death/black metal into the crowd. Most of the songs on offering are precisely off said album, “Homage To Martyrs”, and the quartet plays them in an unsurprisingly insolent fashion. Not a lot of movement on stage. No need for flashy complements like stage acting for these old stagers (no pun intended!). On the one hand, that wouldn’t really fit the dust-dry character of the songs, on the other, the band just convinces by their music alone. Guitarist Ian’s solos are food for the ears and eyes. The positive reactions greeting the band show that the audience is definitely up for some rumbling old school sound. Well done! Because the following VOMITORY will even up the ante when it comes to pure brutality.
Neat Swedish death metal for the evening hours, what more do you want? VOMITORY know what is expected of them and, without hesitation, slap “The Carnage Rages On” and “Revelation Nausea” in the audience’s faces. And the people really open up to the fantastic blasts on display. By now the tent is packed to the last corner, which seems a bit surprising at first for a band as extreme as VOMITORY. But the crowd rages, happily meeting every request for a circle pit and making the sweat run down the walls. VOMITORY have got the audience firmly in their grip from the first minute and don’t let go with the following “Serpents” and the title track of their penultimate album, “Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize”. It’s a true joy how the grooving monster riffs alternate with brutal blast attacks. And the audience agrees apparently, celebrating the band as some kind of small headliner. After what felt like about 20 minutes, but which was actually three quarters of an hour according to the watch,”Redemption” and “Under Clouds Of Blood” round out a gig where VOMITORY proved once more what we already knew: There’s no need for melody in good music.
There was a last minute change to the running order as CATARACT couldn’t make it in time, that’s why GOD DETHRONED had to get on earlier than planned. And so the Dutchmen led by Henri Sattler climbed the stage to fire up the Party Tent with their death/black metal anthems. As soon as they set foot on stage, the musicians were greeted with a big roar from the audience, and GOD DETHRONED made a furious start with “Under A Darkening Sky”, a true tornado of straight-ahead death metal. In the course of a very successful show it became clear that epic melodies, neckbreaking riffs, driving drums and guttural vocals are exactly what the hungry fans were craving. Numerous horns in the air, mosh pits and even a considerable circle pit didn’t allow any other conclusion. GOD DETHRONED themselves seemed extremely focused, firing one slab of death metal after another into the audience, precise and passionate, until “Villa Vampira” sadly marked the end of the set for the “Tulip Slaughterers”.
Although inside the tent it was obviously impossible to see if the moon was up on the night sky, the closer the show of the “Romanian” metallers drew, the more people started howling ferventy at the moon. Dressed in black robes, the boys started their set with “We Take It From The Living” after a very short delay. The initial problems with Attila Dorn’s voice were soon forgotten as he confidently led his crew through the setlist while the audience partied in a more than relaxed atmosphere. After the first song, Dorn was seen manipulating an incense holder with the intention of exorcising the audience of the swine flu, among other evils. With this band it is not only hit after hit in the musical department, entertainment is also a definite priority. And its a feast for the eyes too, as a huge backdrop and four tall sidedrops looking like vitreaux in an atmospheric red light provided for something to look at besides the band members. The whole band, with the exception of the drummer (no surprise here!), were constantly in motion and especially organist Falk Maria Schlegel was always firing up the crowd. The nine songs on the setlist provided a balanced sample of their three albums and, thanks to the harmony leads in “In Blood We Trust”, even a slight breeze of IRON MAIDEN crossed the tent at some point. With a fairly short stage time of just 45 minutes there obviously wasn’t enough time for all the hits, and many probably missed songs like “Mr. Sinister”, but what can you do. “Kiss Of The Cobra King” was the perfect set closer sung by Attila right in the pit by the first rows.
Due to delays on their way to the festival, CATARACT had to switch positions with GOD DETHRONED. But it must have been easy to tell that there were no Dutch death metallers on stage, but Swiss death metallers with tons of hardcore attitude. The band were wearing their influences on their chests, so to speak, as vocalist Fedi had a massive Obituary logo on his shirt, while the bassist had a Death shirt on. In the audience, the atmosphere reached boiling point as soon as Fedi came on stage following the intro played by his band mates. The pit was seething nonstop, the security was busy as hell picking up loads of crowdsurfers and the band was really enthusiastic, agile and tight. There was almost no time for a breather, except maybe during the intro to “Killing Tool” in the middle of the set, which allowed the storm to calm for a minute – just to come back raging even stronger. The icing on the cake was the requested wall of death. Besides frontman Fedi, especially drummer Ricky Dürst left a positive impression. Although playing rather simple stuff on a not very huge kit, his performance was reminiscent of the much-lauded Swiss precision. Im-press-ive show!