To say that MetalDays was one of the personal highlights of the last year would be an understatement – it’s an experience unlike any other. Lots of great bands, fun people, and activities you don’t get to experience too often are enough to make anyone a regular here in lovely Tolmin, Slovenia. There was no way in hell I was going to miss this one.
With festivals like MetalDays, the fun doesn’t start when the first band hits the main stage – the fun starts days earlier, as the campers settle in and start throwing all sorts of fun activities to keep themselves entertained. Having arrived a couple of days before day one, we got to enjoy the beautiful, vibrant landscape of this lovely little town but also see a couple of great bands on the New Forces Stage the day before the official festival started.
But we saved a lot of the excitement for the first day. With a great selection of bands both left and right, making the schedule of which ones to cover was definitely the biggest challenge we’ve faced. With that in mind, the program at the main stage was a bit more appealing, so that’s where we spent most of our time.
The first must-see band for today was VUUR, a progressive metal band featuring the renowned Dutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering fame. Even though she’s one of the most recognizable metal frontwomen, Anneke is surprisingly humble and thankful, using every chance to show her gratitude. Despite that, she knows how to get the crowd going and keep them entertained between songs. You can clearly see the band was enjoying their time on the stage and the reaction they got from the crowd. The band played a selection of tracks from their debut titled “In This Moment We Are Free – Cities” as well as a few tracks by The Gathering and The Gentle Storm, her project with Arjen Anthony Lucassen of Ayreon.
Having already seen Jinjer supporting Arch Enemy last year, I knew we were in for a brutal show. Tatiana Shmayluk is an unstoppable force of pure energy that won’t let you rest your eyes in one place for too long. There might have been a time when I would’ve written that their music is not really my cup of tea, but I have to say that signing to a big label like Napalm Records and touring continuously for years really reflects in their new material. Their show was most enjoyable and a lot of people turned in to support them, considering the sun was still mercilessly scorching the ground.
Next up was the band that has been gaining much renown in the progressive metal world – Leprous. Visit their show once, and you’ll know why. Their music might have evolved from erratic and aggressive to a more sophisticated, almost poppy soundscape closer to the prog-rock roots, but their shows are still teeming with the all-over-the-place energy. Due to the time constraint of their show, we didn’t hear much of the older material, but were treated to some of the best tracks off of “The Congregation” and their latest offering “Malina”.
There are other bands, and then there’s Alestorm. Not giving two fucks about metal tropes, they performed in front of a big blue backdrop and a giant rubber duck as the centerpiece of the stage. Goofy as ever, they are a perfect parallel to the people you see at the festival: all black everything, and then there’s a guy dressed like a French maid revealing more than you’d like, standing amidst all the blackness like John Travolta in that meme.
But make no mistake, Alestorm might not care about their image, but they are very passionate about their music. Their party rocking tunes were a perfect way to welcome the evening and get everyone in the mood for the start of the festival. They got the crowd moshing, charging and even rowing, but the highlight of the show was tossing the giant rubber duck into the crowd to everyone’s surprise. They proved they are the perfect band to front a festival, and judging by the audience’s reaction, they may well have stolen the spotlight from the headliners.
Keeping up with the distortions and tin whistles vibe, Eluveitie rode on the wave of positive energy that Alestorm stirred up and got the crowd going even wilder. Even though I’ve not kept tabs on them for a while now, it was a delight to hear some of the tracks I used to listen to like crazy back in the day when these guys were the talk of the town. Hearing “The Call of the Mountain” in the middle of the picturesque mountains was simply idyllic.
The band has been through some serious line-up changes some time ago, but having never actually seen the band with their former members I have to say I did not notice any irregularities. Their performance was tight as the line in front of the beer stands as soon as their show started.
One of the things I hate about festivals is having to make tough choices like whether I should stay and enjoy Eluveitie’s show or run and catch the second half of the Carpathian Forest gig. As I made my way through the crowd to the photo pit while the Norwegians were blasting with full force, I realized I made the right call. Another band I used to really love but have become estranged with, seeing their show was just enlightening (or endarkening?). Words or pictures cannot really do them much justice, you have to see it to believe it. Their infectious black metal tunes mixed with a healthy dose of good, old-fashioned rock and roll got quite a riot going in the front lines, while others were keeping their distance in the back, gazing in a weird combination of disbelief and admiration as their notorious frontman Nattefrost flashed his cock at the crowd.
Carpathian Forest was also a perfect overture for the day one headliners: the mighty Behemoth. Now, that’s a show I’ve heard a lot about but never got the chance to witness until now. And I can only say the same to you: you owe it to yourself to see these guys live. I was thinking about what I would say in this review, but all that just fell down under the might of these titans. The audience was enchanted by their heavy wall of sound, thrown into a fit of rage and igniting a couple of serious moshes.
Adam Darski, better known to the masses as Nergal is one of those unique frontmen whose presence incites fear and respect. The band’s list was a good mix of something old, something new and “The Satanist”, easily one of the most important contemporary metal albums. The stage was literally on fire as the pyrotechnics did well to illustrate the hellish atmosphere of their songs. And as a special treat, Shining frontman Niklas Kvarforth joined the band to everyone’s surprise.
Wrapping the party up for the first day were the legends who were there when all this started: Diamond Head. Covered by the likes of Metallica and many other bands we all know and love, calling Diamond Head legends is by no means an exaggeration. But Diamond Head is not the kind of band that lives off of old fame – they sound as fresh as I imagine they did back in the day and don’t hold anything back (not that they haven’t rejuvenated their ranks, though). And even though it was already late and most of the crowd was drunk or tired, their show drew in quite a crowd even though Behemoth’s show was running late and most of the visitors were still at the main stage by the time it started.
Written by Jovan Ristić and Marijana Nikolić