Asphyx This would be the fourth time catching Martin van Drunen and co., and every time has been at a festival. Twice at Maryland Deathfest, once at Wacken Open Air, and now at Summer Breeze. One cannot get enough of these death/doom masters, it seems. Every chance I get to see them, I’ll take it if at all possible.
One of the outright heaviest bands on the planet, Asphyx brought it with their usual crunchy, mid-paced guitar attack that could likely level a building. Newer tracks like “Into the Timewastes,” “Death The Brutal Way” and “Deathhammer” definitely held their own amongst such classics such as “Vermin,” “M.S. Bismarck” and set closer “The Rack."
I also lucked out with catching all but the first song, as Asphyx was delayed a bit, which made the clash with Sick of it All almost a non-factor. Consistent as they come, an Asphyx show is always a heavy good time.
Vallenfyre So-called super groups can be quite the enigma. One always hopes for something great, but it’s hard to predict what you’ll get. Thankfully, with Vallenfyre, we get something special. The brainchild of Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh and My Dying Bride’s Hamish Glencross, Vallenfyre is a wall of sinister slow death metal that is only natural to spawn from the kind of pedigree these two come from.
Having not played many shows together, it’s amazing just how solid of a unit Vallenfyre was. These guys don’t screw around. Mackintosh made constant jokes about how slow they play in between songs, amongst other various bits of humorous banter. Having only the one album and an EP, their set consisted of every song off of their full-length A Fragile King but “My Black Siberia.”
A rare treat of which was an opportunity not taken lightly. Catching a band like Vallenfyre doesn’t happen often, due to the very busy nature of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride respectively. A moment to be relished, and one hopefully to be repeated one day.
You know those pesky clashes? The one for the last two bands of the entire festival was a major one. Sucks to be me, right? The bands in question are Katatonia and Anaal Nathrakh. Katatonia, a band I’ve seen many times, is far and away one of which this dude most adores. And we have Anaal Nathrakh, a band that I’ve never had the chance to see, and who knows when/if that chance arises again. Due to the stage that Anaal Nathrakh was playing on being a bit behind, and both bands starting around the same time, the decision was made to catch a little bit of Katatonia, and then haul ass to Anaal Nathrakh. We have a plan.
Katatonia Katatonia was really made for this atmosphere. Pitch black dark, a little chilly. Perfect for the kings of melancholy. Singer Jonas Renske stated that this is one of their favorite events to play, and they certainly played like it. The Swedes were on fire, and their set list was nice and varied.
The ever punchy “Forsaker” began the set, with “Liberation” immediately after. Huge favorites “My Twin” and “The Longest Year” were next on the docket. “Nephilim” was the fifth track played, which made up a heavily Night is the New Day dominated beginning to the show (four of the five first songs). No problems there, as said album is a masterwork.
Next was a second foray into The Great Cold Distance with “Soil’s Song,” with a welcome jump into Last Fair Deal Gone Down territory with “Teargas” afterward. Unfortunately, this was it for me, as it was time to sprint over to Anaal Nathrakh and get my face melted. From seeing the rest of the set list, it was fantastic – big shocker – with “Omerta,” “Evidence,” “July,” “Buildings,” and ending with “Leaders." The guys put on an amazing show filled with atmosphere and dead-on playing in a style that is hugely unique them. If only Blistering could have stayed for the whole show.
Anaal Nathrakh Another one of those “pinch me” sort of moments, Anaal Nathrakh isn’t exactly playing an abundance of shows, and who knows when/if they come to North America anytime soon. As mentioned, the clash with Katatonia sucked the big one, but it had to be dealt with. Luckily, after moving as fast as possible to get over to the tent stage to avoid missing much of their set, I arrived in the middle of their second song, “Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes." Split decision successful, I’d say.
Overall, these guys are easily in the top five of the heaviest and most abrasive this writer has ever seen. The intensity of which they ply their trade is off the charts. Songs like “Submission is For the Weak” and “The Final Absolution” somehow manage to come off heavier than on album, which one wouldn’t imagine to be possible. Other beasts included “In the Constellation of the Black Widow” and “Do Not Speak." Amusingly, singer Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L.) stated that they enjoyed the festival, didn’t know if they would ever come back or not, and that the audience should all go and die. They immediately roared into set closer “Pandemonic Hyperblast,” which ended the set on a furious note. What a set from a band this guy absolutely must see again.
And that was the end of the last night. Having mostly packed already during downtime earlier in the day, and the bus back to Stuttgart not being until early afternoon the next day, there was plenty of time for some serious sleep. Ah, rest – most welcomed after a long and tiring fest.
Aftermath The next day, it was a scene of everybody wearily packing up their tents and whatnot. A few who planned on leaving their tents were enjoying mutilating what remained of their temporary nylon homes. One guy, however, hilariously couldn’t get his tent to break. Punches, kicks, jumping on it, hitting it with a tent pole, and even throwing it against a fence were no match for what will be known as the Chuck Norris of tents.
After completely packing up, it was time to catch the bus back to Stuttgart. Luckily, the bus drops off right at the main rail hub, which is also where the hotel was located. Convenience is nice, especially when you’re exhausted beyond belief. A long shower and a really tasty German bratwurst were on the agenda for the rest of the day. That and a ton more sleep. The day after a fest like this is always about recovery. For those who have done this before, you know how it is.
The long flight the next day went smoothly, thankfully. A return to normalcy wasn’t a welcome one, however, Summer Breeze was a beyond memorable experience of which this guy would love to repeat. In direct comparison to Wacken, I enjoyed my trip to Summer Breeze a bit more than the three years I had there. Not that Wacken wasn’t awesome and all, but the lineup at Summer Breeze was the best I’ve ever seen, and the organization was a bit more straightforward and the stage setup was far superior. The fact that the capacity was about half the size was nice, too, as well as not much of the extracurricular garbage that Wacken seems to be way too concerned about these days. And after hearing about the awful new stage placement at Wacken this year from several friends who attended, my decision to go to Summer Breeze was even more vindicated.
If the chance arises, you can’t go wrong with Summer Breeze. A wonderful, well-organized event with organizers who have a brilliant taste in the bands they decide to book. Zero complaints on anything at all from me, and for those that know me, it’s rare when I have nothing to bitch about. Well, Before the Dawn/Black Sun Aeon not bringing merch. Damn you, Tuomas, for not wanting to take my money!
Best and Worst Without further ado, here are my best and worst bands and moments of the festival.
Best bands: I’ve prepared a top ten, and day to day highlights. I do this because I love you people.
Overall Top Ten 1. Before the Dawn 2. Night in Gales 3. The Foreshadowing 4. Black Sun Aeon 5. Be’lakor 6. Ghost Brigade 7. The Excrementory Grindfuckers 8. Insomnium 9. Dark Tranquillity 10. Anaal Nathrakh
Wednesday: Graveworm, Tankard, Municipal Waste.
Thursday: Alcest, Ghost Brigade, The Excrementory Grindfuckers, Be’lakor.
Friday: The Foreshadowing, Dew-Scented, Black Sun Aeon, Heidevolk, Before the Dawn, Insomnium, Dark Tranquillity
Saturday: Night in Gales, Paradise Lost, Sick of it All, Vallenfyre, Asphyx, Katatonia, Anaal Nathrakh.
Worst: None of the bands that I watched were really bad at all, so Simone of Epica’s abhorrent attitude towards her fans was the low point. Shameful.
That’s all, folks I genuinely hope you enjoyed my very, very long-winded recollection of the best festival I’ve ever had the honor of attending. If anybody went as well, feel free to shoot me an e-mail with your thoughts! And hell, if anybody who is thinking of trekking over to Europe for a fest and would like to know more about the logistics of it and whatnot, I’m always open to helping out, so get at me. Keep it awesome, Blistering addicts.