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Summer Breeze 2012 Review Part II

By: Dan Barkasi

How Barkasi remembers all of this is anyone's guess, but to read the first installment of his Summer Breeze review, click here.

Day 2

The second day – technically the first day of the actual festival, not counting the pre-fest day – began bright and early with waking up at 11:30am. The first band that I wanted to catch wasn’t until 1:30pm, so that gave plenty of time to get prepared for the awesome day ahead.

This was also the day where all of the official band merchandise was opened up, as well as all of the other vendors. There are fewer vendors here than at Wacken, but about the same amount of really cool stuff. I still found plenty to drain my bank account with. In the end, that’s what matters, right?

Onto the bands!

Right away, we begin with a huge rarity – the Australian’s in Be’lakor. These guys sport a progressive melodic death style that is definitely one of their own. A lot of complex structures and tempo changes, along with some classic melodic death metal, make for a very immersive experience. And they pulled off that feeling live to an elite level. These Aussies know how to write interesting tunes, and their live portrayal of their music is full of energy and raw emotion.

Beginning the set with “Venator” set the mood perfectly, with “Remnants” continuing on the right track. “Fraught” followed, and they finished up with “Sun’s Delusion.” Only four songs, but considering they had a half hour, and Be’lakor songs aren’t known for their brevity, it made sense. A great set from one of the best up and coming bands in metal today. There’s something in the water in Australia, as so much quality is coming from there: these guys, Ne Obliviscaris, Okera, Pilgrim, Orpheus, Arbrynth, Katabasis, amongst many others. The number of great bands coming from that continent is ridiculous. Also attended their signing session, to which they couldn’t have been a nicer group of guys. One of them had an Okera shirt, which made me very jealous. Keep an eye on Be’lakor – the only way is up for them.

Darkest Hour
After a short break to grab some refreshments – aka Fanta – it was time for Washington DC’s melodic death/metalcore veterans Darkest Hour. Being a long-time fan of them and not having seen them in a few years, this was a nice chance to catch them again. It’s odd how these guys get a lot of undeserved flak from so-called “true” metalheads. They’ve always written very slick melodic death metal with some hardcore influences, though 90% rooted in classic melodic death. However, these are also the same people who listen to gobs of thrash, yet claim that hardcore is all garbage and any metal with hardcore influence in it is crap. Even though it’s a known fact that thrash metal was heavily influenced by hardcore music. Dumb and ignorant people make me laugh. Rant over!

Darkest Hour played one of the most energetic sets of the whole festival, and brought out a classic in “With a Thousand Words to Say but One.” Most of the set consisted of the last three albums, which are good, but a lack of their best material was somewhat of a downer. “The World Engulfed in Flames” and “Savor the Kill” came off particularly well from the newer material, though everything sounded very tight. Unfortunately, they played “The Sadist Nation” and I missed it, due to having to split their set with the next band. But from what I saw, it was a good performance from a band that has continued to go strong despite a lot of obstacles they’ve encountered through the years.

Glorior Belli
It was time to catch some French black metal after watching the first half of Darkest Hour, and what was seen was definitely worth seeing. Glorior Belli has really come on strong in the last few years with some remarkable albums, and their live performance certainly matched their prowess on record. “Manifesting the Raging Beast” and “Deadly Sparks” were certain highlights of their set, with each song being played with a lot of aggressiveness and full-on rage. This is the kind of black metal that I enjoy most – the kind that isn’t afraid to be different and go down unique paths, but still has the razor sharp riffage that the best black metal contains. Glorior Belli is easily one of the best at this line of thinking, and methinks they’ll continue on nicely.

After a food break and acquiring some shirts – most specifically, a classy Be’lakor number – it was time for Agrypnie. The most cumulative description for them I can muster is avant-garde melodic black metal. They’re all over the place, really, but their roots are firmly in black metal with these sorts of variations. And they do so extremely well, both on album and in concert. These German’s put forth a load of raw emotion, and it really makes their performance stand out. Songs such as “Augenblick” and “Gnosis” were especially intoxicating. An extremely strong back-to-back billing of distinctive black metal in Glorior Belli and Agrypnie is something one could get used to.

After Agrypnie finished, it was break time – very much needed. During said break, a little bit of Epica was caught. Simone sounded absolutely awful. Now many of you know I have a distinct distaste for a lot of things about Epica – and the million bands that copy them – but I never could say a bad word about their ability to perform. They do what they do well – the sound and the “lets make Simone look like she IS the band” thing got excruciating. But wow, did Simone sound awful. I’ve never heard her sound this lifeless. She also looked like she’d rather shoot herself than doing an autograph session (obviously, I was NOT in line for their signing, but there are two signing tables right next to each other). The rest of the band was all smiles and joking around with their fans, but not Simone. Living up to the diva thing, apparently, with a pissed off expression and not saying a word to anybody. There was even a young lady who was telling her how much of an inspiration she was to her and that sort of thing, and Simone literally waved her away and wouldn’t say a word. Sad, isn’t it? Let the hate mail from Epica fanboys/girls begin!

Skipping Napalm Death due to needing a break and having seen them many, many times, the next band up was Alcest. Only having seen them once prior when they opened for Enslaved last September, and they were simply divine. The same can be said for their show at Summer Breeze. And as intense as they were when I saw them about 11 months ago, they may have managed to even up it, which didn’t seem possible. “Le Iris” and “Nouvelles” were standouts from a band I get hooked on more with each listen.

Iced Earth
Power thrashers Iced Earth began a few minutes before Alcest ended, but only a song was totally missed, as one could hear “Burning Times” roaring over the festival grounds while walking to their stage. The band has been running on all cylinders lately, with current lead singer Stu Block bringing a ton of exuberance since the departure/retirement of Matt Barlow. Barlow is a tough guy to replace, with his unique voice and inspiring presence on stage. Block, however, has done a wonderful job, bringing his energetic personality and incredible vocal range to the band’s already impressive sound. Set highlights included “Slave to the Dark,” the always meaty “Pure Evil” and “10,000 Strong,” and Jon Schaffer’s heartfelt tribute to a fallen friend, “Watching Over Me”. A band that has been through a lot of change in the past – some good, some bad – Iced Earth is a well-oiled machine now. It’s great to see them consistently touring, with a tight on-stage chemistry that has brought out the best in them. Their Summer Breeze show was certainly one of the better ones I’ve seen in easily over ten performances witnessed over the years.

During the waning moments of Iced Earth’s set, The Excrementory Grindfuckers had a signing session scheduled. With their overt silliness, this was something not to be missed. And they didn’t disappoint. Eluveitie had a signing session directly next to their signing, and one member of the band made a sign that stated (originally in German) “Uncool People” with an arrow pointing towards the Eluevitie line, and “Horny People” with an arrow pointing towards their line. The Grindfuckers line erupted, of course, and the entire Eluveitie line gave puzzled looks. Never know what will happen when it comes to these guys. Very, very fun people to meet as well.

Die Apokalyptischen Reiter
The always unpredictable Die Apokalyptischen Reiter came after the signing of all signings. Having seen them once before at Wacken, I knew what to expect – an over the top stage show that compliments their one-of-a-kind style of metal. This time was similar to last time, except singer Fuchs didn’t pop out of a giant balloon. Keyboardist Dr. Pest was still complete with bondage outfit and a swing of which he randomly uses throughout the set. That’s the kind of antics you get at a Reiter show. The band’s stage show is always fun, and this performance kept up with their reputation. But with all of the hoopla, they certainly don’t sacrifice musicianship, as the band played well as a cohesive unit. Crowd pleasers such as “Es wird schlimmer” and “Nach der Ebbe” were included, with the set being a good mix of Reiter’s career. Always a good time.

Polish titans Behemoth were one of the evening’s headline acts on the main stage, and having never seen them in anywhere but a club setting, the curiosity of what their show would be like in a larger open air setting was high. Expectation met. The band performed with extensive theatrics, tall blazes of fire, burning microphone stands, amongst other additions that simply cannot happen in a club setting. As always, the power and presence of Behemoth’s brand of black/death metal was a sight to behold. Mainman Nergal’s intensity was especially fierce – more so than I’ve ever seen previous. Opener “Ov Fire and the Void” was a perfect starter, with mainstay tracks such as “Christians to the Lions” and “Chant for Ezkaton 2000 e.v.” lit up the night (both figuratively and literally). And it’s hard to not get goose bumps when Nergal screams, “It’s great to be alive!” before launching into “Conquer All.” Live on, brother.

After Behemoth, the temperature had dropped significantly, thus it was time to head over to the tent to grab a hoodie. Thus, unfortunately, meant missing a good chunk of Eluveitie’s set. Not a huge deal, as it’s a band who tours regularly and one I’ve seen plenty of times. However, they’re absolute quality, so missing them always is a negative. Catching a few songs at the end of the set with a cool Fanta was nice, and they performed admirably – especially during “Havoc”.

Ghost Brigade
Easily one of my most anticipated acts, Ghost Brigade is one of the leaders of Finnish metal. Their melancholic sensibilities, along with their biting riffs and crafty songwriting ability, make them a true force. Considering they’ve never played in North America, this guy is lucky to be seeing them for the second time. Their set began with one of their heavier numbers in “Lost in a Loop” and continued with the infectious “Traces of Liberty.” The highlight of the set was when the band broke into “Into the Black Light,” which was followed by “My Heart is a Tomb.” Hard to beat that back-to-back! Rounding out the set were the riff-laden “Clawmaster” and “Soulcarvers.” Singer Manne Ikonen’s live vocal work is a special treat, as his ability to re-create the unique feeling of Ghost Brigade’s records in a live setting is admirable. This was a dreary and impactful set from a band that every metal fan needs to hear, and see.

Next up was a difficult split. The industrial styling of Deathstars, and the overt silliness of The Excrementory Grindfuckers. Luckily, Deathstars began a little before the mighty Grindfuckers. So off to the Pain stage it was!

These Swedish stars of industrial metal aren’t a band you get to see often – at least if you’re not living in Europe. With that said, this opportunity was one that had to be taken. The band started with impact, kicking into “Mark of the Gun.” “Motherzone” and “Semi-automatic” followed, keeping the pace up and putting the crowd into frenzy. Other highlights included “Night Electric Night” and “Blitzkrieg,” during which I began my trek to the Grindfuckers party of epic proportions. Deathstars certainly put on a great stage show to complement their tunes, with their performance being high on energy and enthusiasm. It would have been awesome to have been able to watch a full Deathstars set, but what I saw was definitely worth the years of anticipation. If you’re into this sort of metal, you won’t be disappointed.

The Excrementory Grindfuckers
Doing a full sprint as to not miss another minute of the most fun band in the world, I made it to their show without missing much. The guys had a theme for this show. Since it was Summer Breeze, they decided to theme their show with a touch of summer. This included the band dressing in summer attire: one wearing a Hawaiian shirt, one wearing a bikini, and the best of all – one wearing swim trunks, water wings, and a huge inflatable tube that looked like a giraffe. They also had custom beach balls that they continuously threw into the crowd that had their logo on them, with the slogan “Grindcore with Balls.” How I wish I would have been able to get one of those! And by the way, their set was fantastic. They played many of their best tracks, including “Looking for the Grindcore,” “Grindcore Blitz” and the classic “The Final Grinddown.” The entire crowd was dancing and laughing from start to finish, and the Grindfuckers definitely fed off of the energy as they ran around the stage like maniacs and put on one of the most enjoyable sets this guy will ever see. When their time was up, they were throwing out tons of inflatable animals to the crowd, a giant inflatable tree, and pretty much any silly toy they brought along. The Excrementory Grindfuckers are just plain fun, and with any luck, I’ll see them again someday.

In Solitude
Last up for this evening was In Solitude, the young Swedish occult metal phenomenon. Having seen these guys plenty of times, one knew what to expect. Needless to say, said expectations were high. This performance, however, may have been the best I’ve seen them. Their sound was perfect, and their stage show was full of zest. Singer Hornper – complete with usual fox boa – displayed an aura that made their performance tick. Powerful numbers such as “Demons,” “Poisoned, Blessed and Burned,” and “To Her Darkness” were some of the best moments of their show. One of those bands that gets better every time, In Solitude is a one who should continue to rise through the ranks.

With day two in the books, it was time to crash. And crash I did! Day three was soon dawning, and it would be a busy one indeed.

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