(Our UK-based writer Andy Synn made the trek to Germany for this year’s edition of the SUMMER BREEZE festival, and provided us with a review of the bands whose performances he witnessed. We’ve divided the review into two parts. Part 1 was yesterday, covering performances on the first two days of the festival. In this post, Andy covers the festival’s third and final day, and at the end we’ve again collected videos of some of the performances discussed in the review.)
Day 3 saw a late start (which may have had something to do with the amount of alcohol consumed the night before) with Naglfar over on the main stage, kicking out some lethal melodic black metal despite the blazing sunshine and clear blue skies. It’s really only in the live setting you can fully appreciate both the anthemic quality of the group’s material, as well as the technical skill behind it.
Over on the second stage Unleashed wasted little time getting into the swing of things, their brutish, occasionally melodic, Viking-obsessed death metal garnering a surprisingly loud reaction (at least for this early in the day). The only niggling problem is that where Amon Amarth are more obviously self-aware, using these tales of Viking lore to inspire and uplift their fans, Unleashed seem to treat their subject matter as a manifesto, and their uncomfortable “we should all be Vikings!” schtick is both extremely geeky and embarrassingly ill-informed.
Over in the third-stage tent Incantation were unleashing their own brand of filthy, blood-spitting aural horror, dropping some gut-clenching death metal grooves and breakdowns into the whirlwind death metal stew, even throwing in a few Possessed covers for good measure. Slightly breaking the atmosphere though was John McEntee’s use of an uber-gravelly Batman voice for his between-song banter, unintentionally hilarious in its own special way.
Keeping the filth and the fury going, Cattle Decapitation played an incredible set to a captive audience unsure whether to run away from or toward the horrific noise produced by these 4 deranged individuals. Adding to the disgusted/enthralled reaction of the crowd, at one point frontman Travis Ryan hawked a huge spit-wad up into the air, only to catch it and smear it all over his chest on the descent. Impressive, in a weird, weird way.
Sticking to the third stage, both for the bands and for the nearby stands selling large quantities of alcohol, I got to see the bullet-belted, Bible-burning antics of Swedish underground legends Nifelheim. Precursors to the rise of current blackened standard-bearers Watain, the group put on a solid performance of straightforward, hard-rocking black metal, hamstrung only by an excess of cliché and somewhat repetitive song titles.
The performance of Shining was divisive for several reasons. The music was, at its best, a captivating melange of harsh black metal and psychedelic Pink Floyd-ian melody. However, the misanthropic, often unpleasant, behaviour of Niklas Kvarforth (though utterly fitting in many ways) at times crossed a line into out-and-out offensive and deplorable. It seems like, having kicked the more physical side of his self-destructive habits, he’s now intent on self-destructing his reputation instead.
Amon Amarth certainly brought the thunder to their headlining slot, with a huge array of flame bursts and fireworks keyed to the rhythm of their marching battle metal. Clearly thankful and appreciative of their audience and popularity, the band pulled out all the stops, both in showmanship and musicianship, the only slight disappointment being the underwhelming final song “Guardians of Asgard”, when both “Live For The Kill” and “Twilight Of The Thunder God” in particular had already set the bar extremely high, and would have made for a more epic closing song.
My last band of the festival (and an unfortunate clash with the UK’s own Anaal Nathrakh) were the legendary gloomsters Katatonia, playing one of the most surprisingly aggressive sets I have ever seen them play. Every song just seemed to hit a little harder and be played a little heavier, including new song “Buildings”, which fit seamlessly into the set while also showcasing the group stretching their wings for the next record. The three-way vocals were also perhaps the strongest I’ve ever heard from them, mixing in some angsty screams with the multifaceted harmonies and melodies, to provide a stunning conclusion to the festival.
So that’s it, three awesome days of sun, alcohol, and epic music. A heavy emphasis on melodic death metal gave this year a consistent character, with some nice injections of black metal misanthropy and death metal filth to provide some variety. I managed to see some bands I might never get a chance to elsewhere (Be’lakor, Agrypnie, Black Sun Aeon), some personal favourites who I never miss (Darkest Hour, Insomnium, Katatonia), and a couple of bands putting on the best show I’ve seen from them (Immortal, Amon Amarth). So all in all, worth every penny.