(Here’s the third and final part of Andy Synn’s review of 2013’s edition of the SUMMER BREEZE festival in Germany. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. Once again, Andy provides video that he filmed at the performances.)
The third, and final, day of the festival was a funny one. It seemed (at the time) that this was going to be the day when I only saw a few bands – particularly as I had a long gap planned at one point to do some shopping and eating and such. But, now that I look back on it, I see that I actually watched a good seven full sets, most of them pretty long, five of them from bands I absolutely adore. So, all in all, actually a very, very good day.
Oddly enough the first band of the day was to be Portugese goth-metal masters Moonspell, a band I’m not really a fan of, per se, but whose stellar performance at Inferno earlier this year definitely made me want to check them out again.
Consummate showmen, with an enviable brace of infectious songs and killer riffs, the group managed to turn a brightly-lit early afternoon slot into something of a gothic mecca, their passionate performance crafting a clear and well-received connection with the crowd before them.
We were also treated to one of those wonderful “festival moments” when current Tristania singer singer Mariangela Demurtas came out to add her vocals to a fantastic run-through of “Raven Claws” (although her awkwardly sexy dancing and casual clothes felt oddly at odds with the song’s darkly seductive vibe).
Up next on the Party Stage were death metal destructors Hate, performing their blackened anthems to a nicely packed crowd of rabid fans. A truly thunderous “Eternal Might” kicked things off, including a drawn-out interlude featuring some impressive fire-breathing antics, but things stalled after this, with technical problems dragging on for several minutes (and causing them to cut one of my favourite songs from the setlist!).
Still, it’s nothing you can blame the band for, and when they finally did return to power through the rhythmic riff-crusher “Omega” the crowd lost their collective minds once more.
With a massive sound and lethal tightness, this was a killer performance – one that easily regained its lost momentum before utterly bulldozing the crowd into submission with song after song of pure Polish power.
After a long break it was time to resume things with the awe-inspiring sturm und drang of the legendary Grave. With their grinding riffs and carpet-bombing drum salvos the fatal four kicked out a truly apocalyptic racket, drawing songs from all across their career.
The band’s performance had a classic feel to it, without slipping into nostalgia, buoyed up by a sense of energy and life quite at odds with the band’s dark, necrotic subject matter.
Ola Lindgren himself was in particularly fine form, not just in terms of his grime-encrusted growl, but also in his interactions with the almost worshipful crowd, switching between heartfelt appreciation and subtle teasing without missing a beat.
A true pleasure to watch the masters at work.
Following this almighty aural pounding it was pretty much a straight unbroken run of amazing bands right up until the festival’s end, starting off with the main clash of the festival – Enslaved vs Amorphis.
How could I choose? There was really no right answer to this dilemma, so I just had to go with my gut, and my gut said… Enslaved.
And I’m glad it did, because they damn near stole the whole festival with this performance. The sound was near perfect, and the performance absolutely impeccable – loose-limbed and lively yet startlingly clear and compelling.
The band were clearly in high spirits, as were their fans, as they punched their way through a set of absolutely classic songs, new and old, from a visceral “Allfaðr Oðinn”, to a show-stopping “Roots Of The Mountain”.
If there were any justice in the world these guys would be headlining festivals in their own right.
Talking of headliners, it was time next to hit the mainstage once more. And let me tell you now, In Flames are MASSIVE. Seriously. You would not believe how many people there were who had turned out to watch them. Who knew all the words. And who screamed and yelled and clapped without shame or embarrassment. I have never seen a crowd that big for this band.
To their credit, they definitely deserved it, playing a lengthy sixteen-song set, with a brilliant light show (the simulated breakdown at the start of “Cloud Connected” was very cool), an absolutely stunning guitar sound, and a final climactic pyro and fireworks display during closer “My Sweet Shadow”.
Sure, Anders was clearly somewhat inebriated (though his rambling banter was touchingly heartfelt throughout), and the band were occasionally a little sluggish (fully acknowledging that this was the last show of a very long and wearing touring cycle), but they certainly put everything they had into the performance.
Some highlights of the set were – gigantic opener “Sounds of a Playground Fading”, with its mix of soaring Gothenburg leads and chugging power, an unexpected (but never unwelcome) run-through of Whoracle classic “The Hive”, the fleet-fingered riffs and honest emotions of “Ropes”, and a thrashy, neurotic rendition of “Take This Life”.
Deserving headliners, unquestionably.
The Gothenburg boys were then followed by another similarly exalted band made up of their countrymen, this time hailing from bleakest, blackest Stockholm. That’s right, it was time for Dark Funeral…
Never a band who disappoint, despite packing on a few pounds over the years, these armoured black metal titans simply annihilated everything and everyone before them with eleven songs of pure sonic hellfire.
It wasn’t just an all-out blast-fest though, as the Satanic stallions know how to use slow and creepy just as well, dragging the audience into deeper, darker places with a truly evil and menacing run-through of “Stigmata”.
This was also the final time (ever) any of us would get to see Emperor Magus Caligula fronting the band. Addressing the fanatical crowd for one last time he explained how it was at Summer Breeze that he first announced his intention to leave the band, and that now, two years later, it truly was time for his final show. A touching moment, made all the more poignant as the band dived into the epic finale of “My Funeral”.
So now it was time for the very last band of the festival, a band I have not seen for a long time. And that band’s name was Primordial.
From the moment they stepped on stage and dropped into a fire-breathing rendition of “No Grave Deep Enough” you knew that this was going to be a special performance. Alan Averill is a truly phenomenal frontman, like a black metal version of Freddy Mercury or Robert Plant – flawless showmanship mixed with undeniable passion and a true punk “fuck you” vibe. Yet you should never let him overshadow the rest of the band, who are collectively responsible for writing some of the most captivating and unforgettable songs in all of metaldom.
As the band moved into “Gods To The Godless” the intensity of the experience only increased. Averill’s majestic voice and passionate declarations of brotherhood stirred the crowd to yet greater heights, even as they began to spill out the sides of the tent, people everywhere struggling to get closer, drawn toward the stage with an almost religious fervour.
The band did not waste even a single second of their allotted stage time, packing every available moment with music, culminating in a triple-headed finale of “The Coffin Ships”, “Heathen Tribes”, and “Empires Fall” which showcased them at their finest and most ferocious and left the breathless crowd truly bloodied, yet unbowed.
Quite simply a band for the ages, and (for me at least) the band of the festival.