Sunlight! Finally! If you read my previous reviews of the MetalDays festival, you probably figured out that I’m not a huge fan of rain. And how could I be? Cancelations, rescheduling, mud and all that goes with it may not spoil the fun, but they don’t help either. Fortunately, the clouds and the forecast seemed promising which boosted our enthusiasm as we packed and left for the festival grounds.
We arrived just in time to catch Dordeduh playing the Boško Bursać Stage to a surprisingly big crowd, considering it was still early in the day by festival standards. I’ve already seen them live earlier this month during their performance at Serbia’s Exit Fest and was really looking forward to seeing them again so soon. And yet again, they did not disappoint. The band’s dark, complex music sat very well with the crowd at MetalDays, even though the sound was too loud. At times the instruments were scrambled into an inaudible mess, almost as if the sound setup was planned for a bigger stage. Towards the end of the show, the sound engineer fixed this and gave the band the auditory treatment both them and us deserve.
As I was checking the questions for an interview our crew did with Doro, I heard the sounds of a sound check at the main stage, not knowing who was supposed to perform. Much to my surprise, a highly unusual grindcore tune started playing as the band took the stage. I asked around to see if any of my colleagues knew who it was. Gutalax, as I was soon about to find out had already performed last year on the second stage and the impressions were so good that they performed again this year, this time on a much bigger stage. When I went in front of the stage, I found out why.
Thousands of crazy, costumed fans were moshing, throwing all sorts of inflatable toys as toilet paper rolls and confetti filled the sky above their heads. Describing the band’s music is a daunting task, but if I had to put it to words I’d say their music is some sort of metalized polka with crunchy riffs and squealing, squeaking and gnarling vocals. You simply have to see and hear it and believe it! The excitement of the crowds, the rhythms that got everyone from the front to the back dancing. Something you definitely won’t play at home too often, but definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss at a festival if you ever get a chance to see them!
Speaking of comic appearances, the next to hit the main stage was the legendary Immortal frontman, Abbath. The main protagonist of many internet memes, Abbath is familiar even to those who never had the chance to actually hear his music. After his unamicable exit from his former band, Abbath gathered a group of musicians to perform under the unsurprising moniker of Abbath. He and his band performed a couple of new tracks off of his latest, eponymous album as well as a lot of Immortal tracks and a real treat in the form of I’s “Warriors”.
The group of musicians he gathered around he is tight like clockwork, no argument there. But one thing that stole the spotlight from the music is the man himself. Completely aware that he is often ridiculed, Abbath completely embraces the image, goofing on the stage, feeding the stereotypes often attributed to the genre and drawing the attention away from the music. But the crowd seems to love it. At the end of the show, Abbath ran across the rails separating the stage from the audiences, before he fell face in the dirt, got up and walked away into the backstage like nothing happened.
We moved on to the second stage where the legendary UK death metal act Cancer was already performing. Reunited a couple of years ago to promote the re-release of their iconic first three albums, Cancer is often hailed as one of the most important and pioneering death metal acts to come from the British soil. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the second stage was packed, something that will remain true for the rest of the day as well. With no backdrop and no shenanigans, the band went through their list comprised of killer tracks and killer tracks alone. The sound was crisp and their raw energy got the masses headbanging and moshing throughout their performance.
Sticking to death metal, back at the main stage the Swedish supergroup Bloodbath was getting ready to take stage. I used the break before the show to have the meanest burger and fries combo you could imagine. As a passionate food enthusiast, I can’t help it but mention that the food at the festival is simply incredible and very varied. But this is not a Yelp review, so on to the show!
Taking the stage right on schedule, Bloodbath greeted the crowd with an arsenal of crushing riffs, tight rhythm and thundering vocals. We’ve already seen two of their members, Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström, perform with Katatonia just a day earlier. It was quite amusing seeing them in this band, giving off a completely different energy. But the most important thing is that they seemed to enjoy it.
Fronting the band for the third year now, Paradise Lost’s own Nick Holmes also fits the band like a glove, dressed in a monk’s garments to match the image of the rest of the act. I never believed I’d ever kick a beach ball dressed like this he jokingly remarked. If anybody has a video, tag me on Instagram. I’ll hate you forever. His growling was on point, strong and energetic, and his witty remarks in between the songs lit up the crowd. Seems like the band has finally found a perfect fit and as far as they are concerned he’s here to stay.
With a heavy heart, I left their set a few songs early just in time to catch the legendary German heavy metal act, Grave Digger. I’ve missed out on their shows a couple of times before, so this was actually my first time seeing the band in more than a decade I’ve been listening to them. And they did not disappoint. The band was promoting their latest effort under a somewhat clichéd title of “Healed by Metal”. But Grave Digger are no strangers to cliché as they embrace the traditional heavy metal values a lot of their peers seem to have renounced.
The Boško Bursać Stage was packed front to back, in fact probably the most packed since the start of this year’s festival. Although the crowd was dense, the reactions were somewhat shy and reserved, as Chris constantly tried to get us singing to their cheerful choruses, with more or less success. However, the crowd did not need much encouragement when the band started playing possibly their greatest hit, “Rebellion”. The whole crowd was headbanging in sync as we screamed out from the bottom of our hearts “Death of glory I will find, rebellion on my mind”. Finally getting the reaction they wanted and deserved, the band bid us farewell with another iconic 80’s hit, “Heavy Metal Breakdown”.
The headlining slot this Wednesday was saved for the Metal Queen herself, Doro Pesch. Having the chance to meet her prior to the show, I have to say that the enthusiasm and all the speeches she held during the show came straight from the heart. No bullshit, no clichés she memorized, everything she says is as genuine as her music. Doro Pesch lives for the music and the fans. Anyone who had the chance to see her show felt it. That is something you cannot fake.
Backed by an incredible band of talented musicians, Doro led us through her 34-year-long career, mostly focusing on the iconic album she recorded with Warlock, “Triumph and Agony” which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Of course, she did not forget other legendary albums like “Burning the Witches”, “Hellbound” and a couple of tracks she recorded as a solo artist.
We were also treated to a cover of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” which really got the crowds moving. Doro saved the best for last, starting her half-an-hour long encore with “All We Are” and moving on to fast, energetic tracks like “Metal Racer”, “Night of the Warlock” and “Earthshaker Rock”. Bidding farewell to the crowd, Doro left the stage with a promise that we won’t have to wait that long to see her again.
The last show for tonight came from the Norwegian alternative, black metal and jazz fusion act, Shining. To the surprise and disappointment of many who were expecting their Swedish namesakes, these slick young guys took the Boško Bursać Stage and gave us an hour-long performance to remember. Focusing mostly on their current album “International Blackjazz Society”, the band also presented a couple of tracks from their upcoming album still in the making. Fusing heavy riffs and blast beat drumming with saxophone and clean singing is not something the crowd has a chance to see every day. Their music really got the crowd moving, jumping, moshing and dancing. A great way to end a perfect day!
The schedule was so packed that we barely had a chance to stop and take a break. But the great music and the fans’ enthusiasm have the power to wake even the most tired visitors up. After the last band, I had the chance to visit the beach stage where an amazing DJ show was taking place, keeping those who did not feel the need to go to bed yet entertained. Needless to say, this is where all those enthusiastic fans gathered and the energy created there can keep you up all night. Like I said before, the party does not stop.
And there’s still two more days to go!