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SUMMER BREEZE OPEN AIR FESTIVAL

Dinkelsbühl, Germany, August 13th-16th, 2008

by Boris Van Berlo, Juliane John and Aziza Schwenke

Placing a festival in mid-August is not exactly a safe thing to do in terms of the weather and the one week-long daily rain showers had swept away the slightest spark of hope for bearable festival weather. Lucky we were in the end that at least the big mud fight we expected to beat even Wacken 2005 never came but temperatures weren’t exactly camping-friendly so that the fest was renamed to “Summerfreeze” by a random festival- goer.

It was the 17th edition of the festival in the south of Germany and surely the biggest visitors-wise, though not to every fan’s delight as spaces in front of the stages were often packed and a good spot only to be caught by getting there early a good time ahead. If you were among the unlucky ones, you could become even unluckier and be tortured by the at times quite bad sound at the side of the stages, where a good solo could drown and some songs were unwillingly distorted. Bad luck with the wind? I guess not as this was a constant problem on all three days.

Otherwise we made the best of the situation, arranged ourselves more with the mice at the VIP camping, who at night were claiming their mouse holes no matter if they were beneath our tent or not (Fun thing to be woken up by some rustling beneath you!), and less with noisy and annoying festival visitors who listened to Grindcore, German Hip Hop, Techno and Schlager music in deafening volume, tried to ignore the rain and cherish the sun!

THURSDAY

As we Boris and I arrived late due to work obligations, bands like GRAVEWORM and SOILWORK were only heard by us (in a remarkably good sound) from the camp ground when we set up our tents in a hurry. But as our European editor Audrey had urged me to go see THE WILDHEARTS, I followed her call and made it there just in time to see quite the energetic rock’n’roll performance of the Britons. Although not quite my taste in music, they definitely convinced with their show and that not only me but a good share of the cheerful crowd (Juliane)

A NEGURA BUNGET live show is always a treat for the ear and the soul, even though the grim epic black metal extraordinaire of this Romanian cult band comes more to it’s right in club surroundings. Their rather early festival slot here on Summer Breeze, as on Wacken, was a (too) short yet intense musical sensation. Focussing on their recent masterpiece “Om”, Negura Bunget used their broad array of instruments, like a traditional wooden percussion board. It was an enchanting performance, which made you linger for more, hopefully soon during a club tour in the fall. (Boris)

ARCH ENEMY entered the main stage with uniform clothing for all instrumentalists: Black chemises with a red armlet, except for front woman Angela, who wore a shirt with a skull and red bands on her wrist. When the siren -intro of the new album “Rise of the Tyrant” is blasted through the amps, a big crowd is present. The first song “Blood on your hands” proved to be a great live song and showed Angela’s vocal development. The announcements alternated between English and German, which isn't a problem for the vocalist born in Cologne, domestic in Sweden. To get accustomed to Bavaria she had already tasted some “Weißbier” (but no Weißwurschd for she's a vegetarian), as she told good-humouredly. For the sweating festival crowd she sacrificed some of her water bottles, which turned out a good idea as there was no time to relax during the show: The set contained two more songs from the new album and many old headbang-hymns, such as “Ravenous” and the obligatory “We will rise” and “Nemesis”, which get the expected loudest applause. Concerning stage presence and instrumental-skills it's a great show with five energetic and well-coordinated musicians. When the crowd started their quite annoying „ausziehen“-shouts (asking Angela to undress), she kept cool and pretended that the bass player was probably meant. She commented further that she was happy that having the band prevented her from having to strop and dedicated “Revolution begins” to all the ladies. (Aziza

BEHEMOTH attracted many people who watched Arch Enemy to move to the Pain Stage. The Polish looked as good as the dark hardliners can look in the late evening sun. But the big banners made sure that there was some atmosphere though. Not only the sun but also the sound wasn’t ideal for the extreme metal band: The often used vocal effect was missing and the drum sound is far from perfect because of the snare being much to low in the mix, which turned out very counterproductive for Inferno's beloved infernal blasts. But otherwise the gig was certainly worth seeing. The setlist was a mix of nearly all decades, including some songs of the new album, as well as with “From the pagan wastelands” from their old black metal days. The show is quite energetic and front man Nergal has learned one German word „Dankeschön“ (thanks), before he came to conquer the country with a smashing „Conquer all“. As another proof for the reflection on their Black Metal roots, Nergal ripped up a bible. I’m sure this only encouraged the village's priest in his opinion as he wanted to ban the festival last year. Negative highlight of the show: the (male) crowdsurfer wearing a skirt but no underwear, revealing his ass (and so on) to everyone. Otherwise: Nice concert! (Aziza)

AHAB is a German (funeral) doom band with two members of Midnattsol, and thematically devoted to the ocean in all its various aspects. Although the band only exists for a few years and has only released one demo and one album, they already gathered a huge following. Personally I was looking forward seeing them live, but unfortunately their show did not really ‘grab me by the balls’. I suppose this was mainly the case because a festival surrounding and the crowd’s behaviour were not really suitable for this kind of music. Nevertheless on studio outputs this band convinces for the full 100%! (Boris)

For those of you who did not already know: PARADISE LOST are back! After a few years of experimenting, something that not every fan from the early days could appreciate, they again release consistently very strong albums from 2002’s “Symbol Of Life” on up to the recent “In Requiem”. During live performances they also re-included more older songs, and definitely not against their will, like it always felt when they played the obligatory “As I Die” in recent years. No, not at all, it seems they really enjoy it again. “Pity The Sadness”, “Enchantment” and “As I Die” passed by, causing huge delight amongst the festival visitors. Together with newer stuff like “Never For The Damned” and “No Celebration”, which were sung very vigorously by the crowd, it all resulted in a very enjoyable performance. (Boris)

I always love seeing PRIMODIAL live, although I have to confess that the very first time I saw them, back in 2000, I walked out on them during a festival performance. I know, shame on me. My only defence could be that it was after a long cold day in the rain and I was very hungry. But since that moment I completely embraced these Irish Pagans. The last two months I saw Primordial 4 times on various festivals around Europe. Even though the setlist was always identical, with some minor changes in order, their performances were never boring nor dull, and neither was their passing at Summer Breeze. Focussing mainly on their current album “To The Nameless Dead”, Nemtheanga and his lads had no problem winning over the crowd, so that the only possible answer on Alan’s well-known question ‘Are you with us?’ was a deafening confirmatory roar from the crowd! (Boris)

Let’s face it: HELLOWEEN have rocked the stages longer than I’ve been alive and they’re still far from calling it a day. That alone deserves them some respect though I must admit I have always felt kinda compelled by this kind of music (especially by the extravagant vocals) to run to the… no, not hills… furthest place away from the stage. This time, however, I was enchained in the collective good mood and experienced an enthusiastic performance, of which singer Andy Deris was by far the most outstanding force with lots of posing, dramatic hand gestures and the compulsive running around the stage from one end to another. And would you guess it, as a special gimmick huge pumpkins were inflated in the later course of the set. Who says oldsters don’t rock anymore, is proven wrong here. (Juliane)

MARDUK, although heavily anticipated, did not quite get the job done tonight. The usual big grin that arises on my face when I see all this diabolic posing and hear the infernal screaming of singer Mortuus just didn’t want to show and in fact, it did turn out to be quite the boring show. Next band! Guess the Swedes are just not made for festivals. (Juliane)

TÝR on the other appealed to me as usual, although the light guy did his best job to leave the stage in the dark and make the photographer’s lives as hard as it gets (damn, where’s the external flash when you need it?). The FAROESE, who after extensive touring around Europe have gathered a recognizable fan base, captivated with their rather gentle then brute force of Nordic inspired yet progish mix of Pagan metal. “Hail to the Hammer” with the usual band – crowd interplay and “Ramund Hin Unge” pleased the pack who had showed at the tent in great numbers. Thumbs up! (Juliane)

The odd one out on this festival could arguably be CULT OF LUNA. These Swedish post-rock, post-metal or even post-hardcore outfit (what’s in a name?) is loved by many but also hated by many, although hate is probably not the right word. Once you are able to determine the musical structures behind the primary wall of noise, you will as a listener experience a quite unique harmony between aggression and calmness, frustration and beauty. This is not always easy or obvious, and the quality of the sound is primordial in this regard. Today we did not have to worry about the latter, so the audience was able to witness the hurricane that Cult Of Luna often is. Supported by their newest effort “Eternal Kingdom”, the band treated us amongst others with “Following Betulas”, “Leave Me Here” and “Ghost Trail”. At around 02:00 in the morning the storm calmed down, and we could all go recuperate in the beer tent [or simply go to sleep]. (Boris)

FRIDAY

HEIDEVOLK is a band from The Netherlands that play their own brand of pagan/folk metal, for a big part inspired by their homeland Gelderland. Even with their Dutch lyrics they managed to get the crowd on their hands this early in the morning. Maybe this was partly due to the rather huge Dutch metal army present at Summer Breeze? Anyway. Very solid songs like “Wodan Heerst” or “Saksenland”, choric chanting together with some drinking horns and from time to time a violin, make HEIDEVOLK a band that can look confident towards the future. (Boris)

What's that? Moving trees? On Friday afternoon some bush-like looking humans found their way to the festival area: They carried branches on which they fixed fir cons with tape. Not very hard to guess which band they want to see: It's humppa-time on the mainstage: KORPIKLAANI jump there smiling and in a good mood as always. „Some trees are nothing special. Sometimes there are even complete woods“, tells the sound guy Paukku. The opening track was „Wooden Pints“ and already some people sang along immediately. The place was quite crowded, though it was still afternoon and during the show some crowdsurfers made their way to the front rows. The Finns let off many of their old danceable hits and also songs from the newest album. Particularly strinking is „Kipumylly“, a rather serious song for the humppa band, on which Jonne played folk drums. When there was only time for one more song after an enjoying gig, Jonne asked the audience, what they wanted to hear. And – no surprise – it was „Beer, Beer“, a successful ending. (Aziza)

It is always fun to see many bands you like appear on the billing while a festival gets shape. Unfortunately this also means that it is unavoidable that some bands you would like to see will overlap. Although this is unavoidable, festival organizers should at least try to rationally find a good balance between these overlaps. With the overlapping of ENEMY OF THE SUN (Party Tent) and PRO PAIN (Pain Stage) this was not the case. Off course it is difficult to please everyone, but I truly believe that these two bands appeal to the same group of visitors, making this a difficult choice for many. I choose to go to Pro Pain, and despite the fact that they played a terrific and very satisfying show, it afterwards felt a bit like the wrong choice. Do not get me wrong, I love Pro Pain, but when towards the end of the set Gus Chambers (ex-Grip Inc.) appeared on-stage alongside the new guitar player Marshall Stephens to do some backup vocals, I immediately understood that I just missed a memorable moment at the Enemy Of The Sun show. And indeed, afterwards I heard that Gus joined Waldemar and company to sing two Grip Inc. classics: “Hostage To Heaven” and “Ostracized”. This was really unfortunate, and I hope I can witness something similar soon! But now back to Pro Pain, who rolled over the festival ground like a steamroller, in their typical crushing style. Playing classics like “Stand Tall”, “Make War Not Love” and “All For King George”, but also a new track from the upcoming album “No End In Sight”. As I said before: a great show, but with a bitter aftertaste regarding the missed Enemy Of The Sun gig. (Boris)

Unlike my co-writer, I had opted for ENEMY OF THE SUN, without doubt my personally mostly awaited band of the day. Front man Jules Näveri has proven his live qualities more than once in his Finnish home band Profane Omen and he did quite the terrific job here as well bouncing from one side of the stage to the next and yet delivering the full range from shouts to clean vocals. As if that wasn’t enough, he proves his comic side, too: “How many of you guys had sex last night?” (loud screaming from the male audience)… “and how many girls?” (just a few girls screaming)… “Hmm… wonder who you guys slept with?” (big grin on his face). With only one album out, the list of songs to chose from is fairly limited and thus a good amount of “Shadows” is played including “Burning Bridges” and “Carousel”. As Boris already mentioned, old GRIP INC. singer Gus joined his old band mates for two songs but as cultridden as this may be, I still prefer bouncy ball Jules. Each to his own! (Juliane)

Before the bay-area-institution EXODUS entered the main stage, the festival visitors had to face rainy hours. During the whole show it's quite cold and drizzling. Nevertheless many thrash fans were waiting for Gary Holt and companions to get immediately rewarded with a classic: “Bounded by Blood” from the 1985 debut album. Another highlight of the show was “Blacklist” from the comeback album “Tempo of the Damned”. Otherwise the setlist focused rather on newer material from „The Atrocity Exhibiton“ and „Shovel Headed Kill Machine“. Soundwise and concerning the instrumental skills of the musicians this gig was really breath-taking. The new vocalist Rob Dukes proofs to be a good choice: His vocals have improved a lot and he's a real stage hog. He's economical of words and when he asked for circle pits, he always gets them. Thrash-dinosaur Gary Holt's solos are of solid craftsmanship with a flashy good sound. Since 2007 he has not only been the only remaining founding-member anymore when drummer Tom Hunting returned. Another fact which boosts the live quality of Exodus! With his drumbeats he holds together the whole thing. All in all a gig, which isn't only worth seeing for thrash- or Exodus-fans! (Aziza).

It’s folk time part 2: Swiss 8-piece ELUVIETIE were about to conquer the mainstage when suddenly some more rains started dripping. That didn’t deter many fans and those who know the catchy folk tunes of the band, know why. Unfortunately, the band only recently parted with their twins Sevan and Rafi, in my eyes the most entertaining figures of the band. The two new guys on bass and flutes were by no means a worthy replacements of the outgoing brothers and hid literally in the back of the stage. To cut them some slack, it was one of the first gigs they played so let’s hope their will become more outgoing as the time passed by. The other band members, however, seemed more outgoing than ever although it was singer Chrigel’s turn to make all the announcements now, which didn’t always prove suiting: “Do you wanna hear some fucking metal?” – Erm, are we watching an EKTOMORF show of what? At least with teaching the crowd some Gaulish (or was it Old German? I always forget) words they landed some points, so did they with songs like “Inis Mona” and “Tegernako”. (Juliane)

The melodic Black/Death Metal band SWORN was one of the great newcomers of the festival. The Norwegians aren't well-known and it's nearly impossible to get their first released album at the festival stands, thus their show is an insider tip and yet really worthwhile seeing! The band played powerful, atmospheric, quite catchy, but also very powerful and dark music. Musically, they're really great, inviting the heads to bang and delivering an enthusiastic show! After the show they give away two shirts: a girly, and a normal-size one. Cool idea! (Aziza)

Although I’m usually for the more refined and complex metal bands, a fast and furious, we-don’t-need-more-than-four-riffs-and-five-drum beats formation like Finnish ROTTEN SOUND come welcome now and then. The fans in the tent agreed with me and bathed in some serious headbanging and moshing as fronter Keijo fired his salves into the crazy-going tent. Rock on! (Juliane)

Fuck! –KATAKLYSM front man Maurizio was pissed off. The airline British Airways lost a big part of their live equipment but after the audience shouted „Fuck British Airways“ for him, he felt much better and seems to be in a quite good mood. Fortunately Eluveitie and Aborted lent them their equipment. Though every third of Maurizio's words seemed to be „fuck“, studious concertgoers may already know this. Crappy sound in the beginning, particularly the guitar riffs are lacking power, but after the first two songs, it got much better and the sound began to support Kataklysm's show, which was fucking brutal as everyone expects of them. They got many moshpits and crowdsurfers as a reward. No surprise, because the setlist was sprinkled with hits from the new album, as well as the mandatory tracks. In general the trademark of Kataklysm is their drum arrangement: Blistering blasts and doublebass, which is rhythmical more interesting as the typical death metal standard. Max Duhamel has it down pat and probably belongs to nowadays best metal drummers. It's fun listening to him and he's maybe had the best drum sound of the festival, though the drums are a bit loud in the mix. The very last song is a great “In Shadows and Dust” and then the death metal fans escape somewhere before Subway to Sally starts to play on the main stage. (Aziza)

THE VISION BLEAK have by now become what you could call an established act in the underground (or even a bit ‘above’ it): three strong albums, the special guest on the last Therion tour, and many top-notch live performances over the years. Their appearance on this year Summer Breeze was nothing less than expected. Very professional, very theatrical and just very... good! Unfortunately not much focus on their debut album “The Deathship Has A New Captain”, but that is only me grumbling. If you do not already know them, buy, download or steal their albums, visit a live show and embrace this horror combo into your arms! (Boris)

SATURDAY

Why the heck does a festival start at 11 in the morning? Please, have some pity with the late sleepers! All turning and covering the ears is in vain, when DEBAUCHERY entered the pain stage, their all-destroying death metal left no one on our camp ground asleep. At least there was still some time for breakfast before going to see the OLD DEAD TREE. (Juliane)

Manu, Vincent, Raphaël and Gilles are four cool guys from Paris. They are also the gifted musicians of THE OLD DEAD TREE a difficult to classify kind of doom/gothic/death band with a very distinctive sound. Their convincing performance early Saturday morning amidst the warm summer sun has certainly gained them some new fans. As always, they gave the crowd a great gig where there’s no need for show or other disturbances, the music does it all and carried the gig to one of the highlights of Summer Breeze 2008 with amongst others “Dive”, “We Cry As One” and “The Knock Out Song”. I can only hope that this band will receive the respect and following it deserves in the near future. (Boris)

An ice cold tank of darkest hatred and despise rolled over Summerbreeze: the truest black metal combo Germany has to offer at the moment: ENDSTILLE. Even their fans were as true as it gets and didn’t move or show any reaction except the usual applauding – or was it still too early (or too bright?) for the panda bears to show their admiration? Speaking of panda bears, one very witty fan brought a stuffed exemplar and threw it to crawling and face-pulling demon singer Ibis, whose reaction was to smile (what an untrue gesture), lick it all over once and throw it back to crowd. Hooray! To my delight and everyone else’s disgust, the sun finally came out for a while. Oh and if a bellybutton piercing isn’t true (how many times have I used this word now?), two surely are as my eyes had to witness on Ibis’ navel. (Juliane)

On it went with black metal, now in a less classic and more modern Norwegian disguise that follows the name of KEEP OF KALESSIN. The sun was still shining, I guess the weather god didn’t feel like adjusting his plans just a little bit (thinking of all the rain we’d had the previous days). I don’t want to imagine how much the band must have sweated in their leather pants and long sleeve shirts but still they managed to deliver a tight, ass-kicking performance, much better than what I expected. Yet the crowd seems fairly small but whether that is due to exhaustion or has the quartet not gained a numerous following over here remains a mystery to me. (Juliane)

DISMEMBER are one of the few Swedish death-metal bands that are still standing strong, from the beginning 20 years ago until now. Needless to say that people were eagerly awaiting this performance, switching the nervous and impatient chanting of the band’s name to heavy headbanging, moshing and crowdsurfing once they hit the stage. Dismember gave the crowd a well-balanced history lesson of their repertoire, with “Dreaming In Red” as my personal climax. It was a nice gesture of the band to change their set slightly with the one from a week earlier at Party San Open Air. An example is the aforementioned “Dreaming In Red” from their 1993 album “Indecent And Obscene”. Because of the vast amount of releases the band has, and of course the limited set-time, it is difficult to perform more than one song from an album. So last week the crowd got “Skinfather” but today it was “Dreaming In Red”. This resulted in extra enjoyment for the fans that visited both festivals. Carry on like this for another 20 years! (Boris)

A big crowd awaits ENSIFERUM in the late afternoon hours. But it's not totally sure, if they really want to see Ensiferum or were already waiting for Heaven Shall Burn, which are next to play on the main stage. This was probably the reason, that the crowd wasn't as enthusiastic as usual during their gigs. Ensiferum get applause, but not too much headbanging and moshing. But Petri knew, what a metalcore audience needs: He asked for a Wall of Death – and he got one! Many fans of the band were quite surprised or even annoyed about this idea, but it brought in some good vibes and got more people to be active. “Token of time” is the song, which gets the most applause. Some of the other obligated Ensiferum hymns like “Treacherous Gods” or “Windrider” were missing, this time the Fins rather play more songs from their newest album... And a little bit of Maiden here, a little groovy riffing there, jamming between the songs. “Battle Song” is interrupted for a little “The Trooper”-interlude. Musically, it's as usual a good show. (Aziza)

Seriously, what’s a band like H-BLOCKX doing on a metal festival? Out of fairness I still decided to check them out which turned out a wise decision. The first few songs yielded at a boring affair when suddenly the biggest party of the whole festival started: some fans started throwing hay, which had been distributed all over the festival area to prevent the ground from getting to muddy, towards the stage, which also hit the security men. They, probably infected by the good mood on stage, started throwing back so that the biggest hay throwing fight of the weekend began – and wouldn’t stop for at least half an hour. Let me explain, roughly 20 security guys against a massive crowd of at least a couple thousand near the stage, you’ll guess who lost eventually! At least that showed that also the working clientele has it’s humorous side and isn’t always all stuck up. And what did H-BLOCKX do – they contributed the soundtrack (I feel almost compelled to write background music) for this event! (Juliane)

Another annoying overlap in the time schedule for me was the one between HEAVEN SHALL BURN and NOVEMBRE. Stylistically these two are quite far apart from each other, thus here the festival organizers are not to blame, only my broad or twisted taste. So after the first song of HSB, the masterly “Endzeit”, opening track of their current album “Iconoclast”, I hurried to the other side of the festival ground to see Novembre perform in the Party Tent. These Italian masters of darkness and melancholy are often compared to Opeth. On one side this could be understood, but Novembre has so much more to offer! This can clearly be heard on their latest effort “The Blue”. It is an unfortunate fact that they are not able to play more live shows/tours, because their performances, like the one today, evoke such a strong mixture of emotions from the audience that it kind of gets addictive. After only 30 minutes (way to short!), the melancholic rollercoaster came to an abrupt end, leaving the listeners with an urge for more, much more. Hopefully this urge can be fulfilled very soon in a club near you! (Boris)

Could a lunar eclipse be any more fitting than during a CRADLE OF FILTH show? I doubt it. So as many fans still marvelled at the sky, pigslaughter-yeller and dwarf in charge Dani Filth, now was short hair, entered the stage and dove right into “Dirge Inferno”. Classics like “Her Ghost in the Fog”, “From the Cradle to Enslave” and “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh” followed but to admit – and I’m a huge fan of the band – the worthier headliners of the day were definitely Heaven Shall Burn. Dani gave his best yelling in all pitches high and dark but as I noticed before, their performance just seemed a little to slick. Little did it help that despite an encore of two songs, the band still left the stage ten minutes early of their playing time. (Juliane)

I have mixed feelings in regard to ANATHEMA. Being an enormous fan of the early days, still considering “Serenades” as one of my all time favourite albums, I lost interest in this band somehow together with Darren White leaving them in 1995. Over the years I’ve still seen Anathema live a few times, and also heard some of their music, but I was never really impressed, until today. Wow! What a performance! Everything was just right: the atmosphere, the setlist,... It was the ‘cherry on the cake’ as we Belgians say (or the ‘icing on the cake’ for all English speaking people) of this years Summer Breeze festival. The perfect headliner, although not officially since I believe Cradle Of Filth will claim this title. The setlist gave a reflection of the bands career, with highlights like “A Dying Wish” and “Sleepless”. It did not even bother that they played their newer, altered and IMHO inferior version of this all time classic. With this performance, Anathema assured me that during the “Unholy Trinity” anniversary gigs this September, together with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, there will definitely be a trinity on stage! (Boris)

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