Today was due to be huge. So many amazing bands, so much Fanta required for fuel. Positives all around! After a quick breakfast and, yes, Fanta – hold the shocked looks – it was time to get the music rolling.
The Foreshadowing The first band of the day happened to be one of my most anticipated. The Foreshadowing is one of the best doom metal bands that everybody needs to know about. Their music is so downtrodden and impactful that it puts most in the genre to shame. Think My Dying Bride level of songwriting prowess – and they very well could be the next breakout act in the genre.
It feels a little strange seeing a band such as this at 11am, but no matter. The Foreshadowing tore through an all too brief 30 minute set with a forlorn majesty that was simply intoxicating. In simple terms, they absolutely owned. The set began with “Aftermaths,” setting the mood perfectly. “The Forsaken Son” followed, darkening the mood even further. The set was rounded out with “The Wandering,” “Ground Zero,” and the insanely heavy “Havoc.” Singer Marco Benevento possesses one of the most haunting, yet beautiful, voices yours truly has ever heard. And live, he sounds even more powerful than on album, which is almost unfathomable. The entire band played every note with extreme precision, all while creating an undeniably somber atmosphere of which this style of music requires. Label me blown away completely.
Dew-Scented After a short merch shopping break, it was time for German thrashers Dew-Scented. They were one of the best bands at Wacken 2010, so a great show was to be expected. The band did have a few member changes since, though their latest album “Icarus” was a great piece of extreme thrash. The question was if the new lineup would hold up in a live setting.
The answer is a resounding yes! Leif Jensen and crew put on a fast and crushing performance. Songs like “Turn to Ash,” and closer “Cities of the Dead” were particularly engrossing. It’s great to see that with all the changes, their live show is still tight and focused. New tracks such as ”Sworn to Obey” and “Thrown to the Lions” played well to the crowd, while ballbusters like “That’s Why I Despise You” and closer “Acts of Rage” punished like a hammer to the noggin. More people should be aware of Dew-Scented, though those in attendance certainly were knowledgeable of their presence. One can’t possibly see this band enough.
Mystic Prophecy On the adjacent stage, Mystic Prophecy began soon after Dew-Scented ended their onslaught. A lighter, but still speedy and impactful set was in the plans. They served as a good change of pace and did a great job of purveying their classic/power metal style. Tracks such as “Savage Souls” and “Endless Fire” were highlights of a solid set. Mystic Prophecy was exactly what was expected, and it was a pleasure to finally catch them live.
The last few songs of Mystic Prophecy were foregone in order to do a signing with The Foreshadowing. They couldn’t be any more gracious, which is always refreshing. Hope to see these guys have much success.
Crowbar The heaviest band in metal – literally! Actually, not so much anymore, as most of the members of the band have lost significant amounts of weight. But the joke is still funny, dammit! Kirk Windstein and co. are one of the most punishing groups out there. Their music is literally just plain heavy as Mt. Everest. No frills and no time wasting, Crowbar brought the punch with songs such as set opener “Conquering,” “Sever the Wicked Hand” (what a song title) and “High Rate Extinction”. They’re one of the only bands around that can pull off such sludgy heaviness and do it right. In a word – legendary.
After being smashed to pieces via Crowbar, it was time for a bit of a break. As mentioned many times already, break time is so vital in order to survive a festival such as this. Supplies such as water and whatnot are important as well. For this purpose, Summer Breeze provides a supermarket on the festival grounds. In it, everything one would need – drinks and food to toothpaste and bathing supplies – is available for a reasonable cost. During said break, it was time to stock up on bottles of water. The journey to and from the supermarket and the tent was short, thankfully, and it was time for a little bit of shuteye.
After the break, it was time to head back for the best string of bands this guy has ever had the privilege of seeing. And for somebody who has seen as many shows as I, that is a big deal.
Black Sun Aeon For those who don’t know – and shame on you if you don’t – Tuomas Saukkonen is one of the most brilliant minds in all of metal. The mainman for juggernauts Before the Dawn, Saukkonen has many other projects. One of which is Black Sun Aeon, being one of his most predominate. The time had come for their show, and needless to say, was one of the most anticipated. Tuomas mans the drums in a live setting for this one, with a steady collection of live members taking on the other duties. “Funeral of the World” began the show with a wallop, with “Frozen” immediately following, keeping the energy high. Far and away one of the band’s best offerings, “Solitude,” was next. Guest vocalist Janica Lönn was there to perform the female vocal parts, which was a definite treat. The emotionally tinged “Oblivion” was another standout, with the vocal performances of both Janica and Mikko Heikklia being the overwhelming highlight of the song. “Nightfall” and “Funeral” completed the performance; a performance of which was overwhelmingly fantastic. Tuomas is a musical genius, and the works he’s created with this project is second to none. Possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity – though we certainly hope not – chances like this are to be relished. Mission: accomplished.
Heidevolk The jovial folk metal up-and-comers Heidevolk are known for their fun and incredibly tight shows. Another one of those bands who have never performed on North American soil, so seeing them here was special. These Dutchmen lived up to their reputation, with a show that was overflowing with fun, but every bit as heavy and focused. “Nehalennia” opened things up with a flash, with crowd pleaser “Ostara” immediately after. My personal favorite, “Een Nieuw Begin,” from their latest and best album to date Batavi was brought out in the middle of their set, much to this guy’s delight. The riffs on this song are so infectious that one cannot resist the urge to wreck their neck. “Beest Bij Nacht” and closer “Vulgaris Magistralis” were other prime highlights of a set that met and surpassed what was expected. Catch these guys if given the chance. You will have a good time.
Before the Dawn Tuomas Saukkonen strikes back! Hey, what do you expect? The guy used the term “deathstar” in one of the band’s album titles, so the Star Wars reference is beyond validated. Past my silly puns, it was time for one of the bands that convinced this guy to make Summer Breeze the festival of choice for the year. Having been a fan of this band since hearing their incredible Gehenna EP in 2001, it’s been a very long wait to catch them. The only downside is having never seen them with the brilliant clean vocals of Lars Elkind, but no matter. Any version of Before the Dawn is phenomenal.
The wait was undoubtedly worth it, as Tuomas and crew put on one of the most engaging and flat out powerful concerts this lucky bastard will ever see. “Pitch-Black Universe” kicked it off, the opening track of Rise of the Phoenix (one of the best albums of the year, by the way). The ripping good “Wraith” was second, with this guy’s most fancied song of the band’s career following, “Fear Me”. Quite possibly the best single song performance of Summer Breeze, with instantaneous goose bumps occurring while recollecting that moment. “Throne of Ice,” “Eclipse,” and “Fallen World” all kept the momentum high, with absolute classic “Unbreakable” and “Phoenix Rising” completing this set. The entire band was on their own level start to finish, and Tuomas proved himself to be one of the most talented frontmen one will ever see. Before the Dawn must be seen again, as there is no way I can only experience this band once.
Insomnium After the high that was Before the Dawn, the feeling would maintain with one of the other stalwarts of Finnish metal – Insomnium. Having caught these guys before once on their only North American appearance supporting Katatonia a number of years ago; it’s been a long time coming in order to see them again. This also ended up being the most chaotic set of the festival – for yours truly at least – with almost losing my hat and my camera due to the huge number of crowd surfers. The dangers I deal with for you people!
Kidding aside, Insomnium’s mellow melodic death is made to be witnessed live, and they put on a top notch show to back that up. “Inertia” set the mood pristinely, with “Only One Who Waits” continuing the gloomy goodness. As a very, very special treat, during “Weather the Storm,” none other than Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne made an appearance to perform dual vocals with Niilo Sevänen. That was quite unexpected, and one of those moments that make a big festival like this special. After Mikael departed – his own band had a set starting shortly – it was time for “The Killjoy,” which came off beautifully, while “Through the Shadows” and “Mortal Share” were absolutely dynamic. “One For Sorrow” finished the show off well, neatly wrapping up a flawless set. These guys have grown massively from when I first heard them twelve long years ago, and their ascension in the metal scene is growing by the day. These Finns deserve it.
Dark Tranquillty Certainly winded from having to haul ass across the festival grounds, Mikael Stanne and the rest of his bandmates were on next on the Pain stage. One of the original stalwarts in the melodic death metal movement, they’re also one of the big stature bands of that scene who have stayed true to themselves and are still making quality music. Their touring of North America has been sparse in recent years, so being able to see them here was most welcome.
Dark Tranquillity always put on a good show, though it was great to see their full stage show in this kind of setting again – like they did on the inaugural 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. The crowd was heavily into them, with just about every head banging in unison. Every song in a Dark Tranquillity set is a highlight, but “The Wonders At Your Feet,” “The Sun Fired Blanks,” “Misery’s Crown” and “Final Resistance” all stood very tall. Reliable and always exciting, the Swedes have never once shown a sign of slowing down. In fact, they seem to hone their craft with every passing year. Very impressive for a band who has been around for so long. Quite simply, that’s how Dark Tranquillity does it. Keep on going, guys, and come back for a headliner in North America!
Afterwards, there was just enough time to catch Heidevolk’s signing session. What a fun group of guys, who always have a good joke up their sleeves. By the end of the session, they had deemed me “Dan the Man,” and wouldn’t let me forget it. Cool dudes and I hope to buy you all a drink someday!
Immortal Now it was time for the sad panda bears (thanks, Swashbuckle). Yup, you guessed it – the mighty Immortal. Being my third Immortal show, and second in a large open air setting, I knew to expect lots of fire shooting all over the place (interesting for a band so into the whole winter thing). And that is just what everybody got.
“Withstand the Fall of Time” kicked the festivities off nicely, immediately followed by “Solarfall” and the staple that is “Sons of Northern Darkness”. The trio certainly has a presence on stage, and their show really comes alive in this setting as opposed to club shows. Other highlights included “At the Heart of Winter,” “In My Kingdom Cold,” and “Beyond the Northwaves”. It must be said that Abbath’s crab-walking was a sight to behold. The man has gotten quite proficient! Only Immortal can get away with this, and that’s just fine. Seeing these guys is always an experience, and one that this guy would repeat again and again.
The plan post-Immortal was to take a bit of a nap and then catch Ahab in the tent stage. Well, once arriving back to my temporary homestead, I crashed like the Hindenburg. And of course, slept through my alarm and woke up when Ahab had about ten minutes left. So, unfortunately, no Ahab. Damn 3am set times. Hopefully the opportunity will arise again someday. Once that was realized, it was back to sleep. The last day was coming, and it was a full one!