7 August 2009
Bad Berka - Thüringen - Germany
As mentioned, this fest is Death Metal Date Night, and that pays off for some people. When I woke up with the dawn today, I was prevented from going back to sleep by the sounds of not one but two couples going at it. I'm in a densely tented area, but that meme of extreme metal fans as sexually frustrated losers is in serious trouble.
Today's highlights are mostly in the block Swallow The Sun - Hate Eternal - Thyrfing - Misery Index, but Unleashed and Satyricon are potentially worth staying up for, and I also want to catch Solstafir. If you're playing along at home, award yourself 10 extra scene points if you associated the band's name with Agalloch's "Not Unlike The Waves".
It is uniformly Wicked Fucking Hot here. The good news is that I can keep my promise to ceaselessly advertise Bone Ritual, but the bad news is that the kutte is staying in the tent absent significant rain. It's not worth magnifying the atrocious heat of the day to avoid the chilldown walking back from the last band. Fifty-degree (Fahrenheit, obviously) temperature swings (from low-nineties in the afternoon to low-forties at night, due to the complete absence of cloud cover) are tough, but I can hack it for that limited time.
574. An old license plate from before Europeanization.
575. Playing at bowls with METAL! \m/ balls and a 1L Faxe can. I didn't ask about the rules, but this may be descended from the same game that turned into horseshoes on the US frontier.
Evocation shirts are confusing when they don't have the band's logo. I keep seeing people in them, going "wait, they have gear out here already?" and being unnecessarily disappointed to find that it's not a fold in the cloth hiding the first letter.
576. Empty infield while Summers Dying sets up.
577. From the foot of the stage up into the hills. The next settlement is well over the other side of the ridge; the actual town of Bad Berka is out of frame about 3 miles to the right, colinear with the back of the stage.
578. An innovative way to beat the heat. There's some wind, so it isn't as bad as yesterday, but such measures are still justified.
Summer's Dying [5/7]
Don't let the pics fool you - this isn't a black metal band, it's a melodic death metal band with Music/Image Reconciliation Disorder, aka Stormwarrior Syndrome. They had some black parts, but never got much blacker than Dissection there, in the main laying out a solid set of melodic death metal mostly echoing mid-period Dark Tranquillity. They did ok, but proved their character by finishing strong despite badly fucking up the intro of their last song no fewer than four times. That's the sort of thing that breaks bands, especially a local band on a big stage like this. We'll see if they ever go anywhere, but they've definitely got the stones to do so.
579. Summers Dying hits the stage.
580. Crushing Thuringian death.
581. Event symbolfoto: single-minded neck wreckage.
(bonus note: my girlfriend was not impressed with the blood paint on this guitarist's arm, and was disappointed that it wasn't a tattoo or something equally permanent.)
A prodigious memory has its uses, especially with a little luck. I wasn't sure where I'd seen Nice To Eat You Records before, whether it was Dysentery or Deconformity or both or some other local band, but they had a booth, so I wandered over, and some random dude was, I kid you not, buying From Past Suffering Comes New Flesh. Quick as a whistle, I slapped one of my few remaining Dysentery stickers down and ended up chatting a bit with the label dude, who took my remaining Dysentery sticker off me along with about half of the Parasitic Extirpation ones I had left, then allowed me to shove some Composted promo cards in the end of the box containing them as a sort of endcap. In return I bought some Katalepsy and Haemorrhage off him; good stuff.
The only regret from this transaction was that I didn't tell him why Parasitic never got back to him about stocking Knee Deep In Disease - that they were practically out themselves due to high local demand and the five that I took over to give away were probably the only ones not in "private" hands by that time as a consequence of the simultaneous Dysentery tour.
Glorior Belli cancelled, leaving this Saxon horde, who either came down special from Leipzig in the morning, or were already here and borrowed up some gear. The sound was pretty typical violent German black metal, but the sourcing wasn't.
582. Grabak make a last-minute fill-in.
583. Wait, they have how many bassists? Even if they sucked, this would make their appearance worthy.
584. Heavy Metal Picnicweise. The grass is soft and non-destroyed, and the ground slopes down to the stage, so there's a lot of sitting down (and lying down, come the night time).
585. Some representative fauna (foreground, bullet belts) and flora (background, leopard bikini) of the festival. I wans't going to do fanservice because it tends to objectify the subjects, but these dudes were looking to be snapped and the chica happened to be in frame, making it equal-opportunity.
Just a flat hammering grind-death outing. These guys need to come to the States; they got a little frustrated with the lack of moshing, which would not be a problem on, say, NEDF a year or two down the line. They also continued the brief run of odd instrumentation; if a grind band has two vocalists, one is usually the guttural guy, and the other is the shouty guy. In this case, there was no shouty guy: the vocalist in the red Dead Infection shirt did death gutturals, and the long-haired dude did even more brutal gore gutturals. S00PER Brutal.
586. Inhume storm the stage.
587. The two vocalists let fly.
588. Guttural dude bellowing.
589. Death vox and a rake of untrimmed guitar strings.
590. Action shot; I was trying to get the singers doing simultaneous high-kicks, but failed.
591. Gore dude rocking a shirt from some friends in the crowd.
Pelican must be huge in Iceland. Solstafir have been around for a while, but this set of predominantly new material brought a definite doomy, post-rock, cosmic sound to the proceedings. It was still black metal, if in the way that Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room are; something different, to be sure, no matter how it's received.
592. The drummer prepares....
593. Slate of their banner.
594. The bassist and his girl braids enter. Yes, they're also Viking braids, but he's short about 50 pounds and three deadly weapons of being taken seriously in that regard.
595. The singer hypes the crowd.
596. Full band behind a boom.
597. As above; stay out of my shots, DVD guy!
598. This Bosshoss-looking motherfucker was hiding stage left for most of their set.
599. Full band (for real, even the shy guitarist) through the smoke.
600. Wailing on a solo at the end of "Ritual of Fire". This song took up easily half of their 45-minute set, if not more. Epic.
Den Saakaldte [4.5/7]
Well-delivered but ultimately replacement-level modern black metal, I saw this set from the beergarden/cocktailbar after reprovisioning for the second half of the bill. If there was a time to take off Friday, this was it. Not so easy tomorrow; Shining is in this "dinner" slot.
601. The band at a great distance.
602. A little closer up. Still replacement-level.
While researching something else I found out that Kvarforth from Shining allegedly does the vocals here, which matches up with what I saw from the band, but that doesn't magically improve the music.
Swallow The Sun [6/7]
Swapping places with their neighbors to the west (Evocation had some difficulties getting in, so STS went on one slot early), these guys brought a killer set of harder Katatonia that reset the tone after the Norskies and probably about did up the day's quota of melody. This also included a new song that the rest of the world won't get to hear until November...unless you stop by one of their gigs in the meantime, that is. As expected, raw, evocative, doomy, awesome.
603. Swallow The Sun enter.
604. The band, enshrouded.
605. Tearing into the first song.
606. Stage right crew.
607. Band, stage left.
608. And now the guitarist finishes tuning and rips it.
609. Full band again.
610. Wailing on a tap solo.
611. The full band in the falling light.
I checked as I went past the Nice To Eat You stand heading back for a drink - Composted, sold out; promo cards, gone. I did something useful after all.
Nice crunchy first-wave Swedish death; it's not for nothing that their logo recalls Entombed's. Another band that would do well in the States; this style generally does well wherever you take it, and this was no exception. Fun times with pounding death metal.
612. Evocation fill the stage and the frame.
613. Crunching out "Angel of Torment".
614. Yells and biting guitar.
615. Digging in, face to face.
616. Close formation.
618. Thomas takes to the stacks.
619. Teamed up.
620. A little closer on "The Ancient Gate".
621. Bass and guitar, close in.
622. Bonded by crushing death.
I'm running out of light, but I should be ok through Hate Eternal at least.
Hate Eternal [7/7]
A Hate Eternal set where you can hear Erik's guitar correctly right from the start, for a decent length of time? Why so I have to go to Europe for this again? The actual music was as uniformly killer as expected, and the crowd was gut drauf enough to make a decent pit for most of the set, a rarity in this part of the world. Full fuckin marks - first time for this band, first time that there wasn't any technical bullshit in the way.
623. Erik storms out.
624. Outfield lineup.
625. New bassist thrashing. Pretty sure this isn't Makoto; if anyone knows otherwise, go ahead and dopeslap me.
626. Erik Rutan, full roar.
627. Lost in the cavern of the stage.
628. Ripping out pure fuckin' death.
629. Erik takes a solo midstage, and I take a two-shot.
630. Hell boils behind Erik for "Behold Judas".
631. The sun sets over the western hills at the end of the set.
Their material was never the best the viking scene had to offer, but this was the pure old viking metal of the old school, well delivered, though the singer could use a couple more viewings of "Chocolate Rain". I MOVE AWAY FROM THE MIC TO BREATHE, srsly! Good stuff, though, and well appreciated by the still-filling crowd.
632. Thyrfing's shit is apparently wicked complicated.
633. The band struts out in the last of the sun.
634. Lost in the fog.
635. The band, benefitting from stage smoke.
636. Through the haze of battle.
637. Bassist, guitarist, and some light amplifiers.
638. The rest of the band outruns the shutter.
639. Full hammering attack.
640. Thrashing away.
641. Guitarist and a blast of fog.
642. The keyboardist stands in a pillar of light.
643. The whole band catches the spots.
644. These five to eight thousand are pretty pumped.
645. Everything goes up for the start of the Black Plague song.
646. More thrashing action.
647. The security, out of focus.
648. Smoke fills the stage again.
649. Stagefront, no fire, though I was anticipating it.
650. The band receives the audience's acclaim.
651. Jens hits the deck to slap hands with doods.
Misery Index [5.5/7]
I heard this from the back rather than seeing it from the front, but the impression holds: precisely milled grind-death, not exactly to my taste, but expertly smashed out and provided. I'll see them indoors one of these days; I can take a break before I take a look at Unleashed and decide if it's worth staying out for Satyricon.
652. Misery Index stirs shit.
653. A little closer...
654. NOW we get fire...
655. You can almost see the band with all the lights up.
Bump the score up to the next full point if you like; they closed strong and I did have stuff between me and the stage most of the set.
656. A perfect blackmetal fullmoon. Suitable for background use.
A partial setlist:
Passion of the Christ
Never Ending Hate
Your Children Will Burn
This World Is Ours Now
Victory or Defeat
Into Glory Ride
Hammer Battalions Unleashed
Death Metal Victory
There was some other stuff in there as well, but this is a fair summation: a good old Unleashed set with a lot of punch and fire. I'm pretty sure that nobody was really expecting anything else. Originality is kind of unlooked-for at this point in the band's career; we got some good Unleashed, and that's what matters.
657. Unleashed enters like something out of a Bathory cover painting.
658. The stage glows like a 19th-century nightscape.
659. More like "Thrashin" of the Christ, but that's a Municipal Waste song.
660. Unleashed through the smoke.
661. Pounding away.
662. Jonny roars up the crowd.
663. Jonny gathering the crowd's never-ending hate.
664. YOUR CHILDREN WILL BURN!
665. ....and so they did.
666. More fireblasts.
667. The flames continue.
668. The pyro smoke from "Winterland" mushrooms into the night air.
I heard this from the tent, and what I heard vindicated that decision. It's ok if Satyr doesn't want to play his band's good music any more; just means I don't have to stand around listening and waiting in vain. New Satyricon is still Satyricon, and still decent, but given where my campsite was located, nothing that needed staying in the infield for.