SUMMER BREEZE 2014 – Day two – Dinkelsbühl – Germany

SUMMER BREEZE 2014 – Day two – Dinkelsbühl – Germany

Day 2

Deadlock: starting the day off right.  Like a good breakfast, which we had every day courtesy of our hotel, who knocked it out of the park with the free morning vittles. But, I digress. The Germans started the day with a rocking collection of a lot of their better stuff, and there was a lot of confetti. A little boy was particularly enamored with it, tossing it around and having a grand time. Really strong band, that put on a good dose of melodic metal with a hint of death and a lot of variety.

Primal Fear and Omnium Gatherum had a direct overlap, so the obvious choice was to watch Omnium Gatherum, the rarer and definitely better of the two bands. No slight on Primal Fear, but I’ll take OG over almost anybody.

The Finns prove the decision to be correct, with a blistering set of some of the best melodic death metal ever made. Guitarist/main songwriter Markus Vanhala has come into his own with the band’s last two albums, and the live performances display a band that’s at an all-time high. Songs such as "New Dynamic," "Nova Flame" and "Nail" were highlights in a set full of highlights. Omnium Gatherum put on a show that had a lot of everything.

The first couple songs of Wound were next, and they put on a no nonsense old school death metal show that is just plain reliable. Good stuff.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

The major highlight of the festival – for this writer at least – was Wolfheart. The new project of Finnish mad genius Tuomas Saukkonen, the band hasn’t played a plethora of lives dates since their inception. The chance for a North American to catch them is rare indeed, so as one can imagine, the excitement was overflowing. Just like in 2012 at this festival with the stellar showings of his now defunct Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon, Wolfheart was flawless. Tuomas’ songwriting chops are undeniable, and the sheer power and presence of his music explodes in a live setting. Opening with "The Hunt," the band blazed through their 45 minutes of stage time. A new song, titled "Susi," was also debuted. If that track is any indication, album number two is going to be a monster. No surprises – Wolfheart owned this day.

Anneke Van Giersbergen – of The Gathering fame – was next, and was a total change of pace from the crushing Wolfheart. Playing a majority of her solo work, along with some The Gathering sprinkled in, the set was really fun and on point. Anneke’s vocals are always top notch, and her impressive range was on full display.

Power/prog veterans Gamma Ray were on the main stage a little after Anneke finished up. Overall, the band sounded decent, but not great. I’ve definitely seen them better, but they weren’t bad by any means. Just good enough would be the best way to describe it. The highlight of the set was a kid crowd surfing for the first time. His family – Mom, Dad, everybody but the family pet – were all there to cheer him on. The kid had a blast, and it made for a fun moment. On the negative, Kai Hansen should sue his barber. What a mess.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

The always entertaining The Excrementory Grindfuckers were next. If they’re unfamiliar to you, they’re one of the silliest bands on the planet (in the best way possible). They do amusing "grindcore" tributes to a myriad of songs, as well as some goofy original material. Like they did at Summer Breeze in 2012, the band came with a theme. This time, it was Christmas. You read that right. Band members were dressed in all kinds of Christmas attire, including HIM dressed as Jesus. There was fake snow. There was yuletide joy – or something like that. The tent was packed to the brim, and everybody had an absolute blast. Playing classic mashups like "Grindcore Blitz" and "The Final Grinddown," these goofballs had the crowd in a comedic frenzy. Having said previously that this is the most fun band on the planet, this performance only backed up that statement. I was looking for the grindcore, and I found it!

Tough decision time, again. This time, the difficult move that had to be made was skipping Carcass. The reasoning – Maroon. Having seen Carcass multiple times, and this being the last show of Maroon’s career, the pendulum was swinging heavily in Maroon’s favor. Add in the fact that the chance to see them has never remotely come close, and it was actually very easy to do.

Oh did the boys in Maroon confirm that the right choice was made. The set roared into action with "And if I lose, Welcome Annihilation" and didn’t give anyone much room to catch their breath. Intense, tight, and full of gusto, Maroon put on a final performance they can be proud of. Add in personal favorites such as "(Reach) the Sun," "Stay Brutal" and "The World’s Havoc," and we have a perfect sendoff. The only downer is that it was a sendoff. The shirts they were selling were really clever, too, with the one with a ship that says "This Ship Is Sinking" was way too cool to pass on. Thanks, guys, for all the amazing tunes, and a hell of a show that was worth the trip for it alone.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

Next up was yet another ‘big deal’ sort of band – Ahab. These nautical-themed doomsters were a band of which was missed on the 2012 edition of the festival. They were playing past 3am, and because of overdoing a nap, yeah. Needless to say, there was plenty of regret there. Time to remedy that error! Dropping anchor (shut up, it’s funny) with "The Divinity of Oceans," the amount of sheer heaviness was on par with a big white whale. "Deliverance (Shouting at the Dead)" kept the set slow and doomy. One of the best bands of the fest, Ahab delivered the goods on a festival that sorely needed some more doom.

Hypocrisy and Ahab clashed, but in order to catch some of each, we abandoned ship before the last song to see the end of Peter Tagtgren and co. Yes, the ocean/nautical puns are over.

Arriving for most of "Fire in the Sky," the timing was very good. What a great song. It was easy to tell immediately that the Swedes were on fire. "Final Chapter" and "Roswell 47" finished the set. It would have been nice to have seen the entire set – especially since the lady had never seen them – but what was witnessed was as awesome as the aliens that abducted Peter.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

Machine Head was the main stage headliner of the evening, and it was decided to check them out for a few songs. Their following in Europe is staggering – much more so than here in North America. They’ve always been a love/hate sort of band for me, but their latest stuff has been pretty solid. "Beautiful Mourning" and "Locust" were early highlights, with the band putting on an intense overall performance. Not my favorite band in the world, but they were impressive and it was a good decision to check them out for a little while. It was also nice to just hear Robb Flynn sing as opposed to complaining about something.

After leaving the main stage, tiredness had already set in majorly, so it was off to some benches to get off the old feet for a while. Then it was off to the Pain stage for some Canadian silliness.

If you haven’t guessed, it was Devin Townsend time. Always fun and musically tight, Hevy Devy is never to be missed. With Anneke van Giersbergen performing earlier, the collective thought was that she just had to join Devin for a few songs. She did just that, and it was a hell of a treat. Devin’s introduction to her was a hilarious, saying "Here’s fucking Anneke" in his trademark goofy delivery. Nobody creates music like the Dev, and nobody presents it live like he does, either. Always fun, and I’ve seen him in various forms well over ten times. Just need to see a set featuring the Ziltoid puppet!

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

The mighty Insomnium followed, playing the T Stage. These Finns have really ballooned in popularity in the last couple of years, and it’s certainly welcome to see. Having first heard them when they were very small and yet to release an album, it’s awesome to see such talented guys get this far with their art. Consistently a showcase of everything good about melodic death metal, on this night, the band portrayed a focus and impact that’s hard to match.

Opening with the intro/first song combination of "The Primeval Dark" and "While We Sleep" off of their latest effort, the tone was set immediately. "Down with the Sun" and "Ephemeral" were definite standouts, and the guys couldn’t have closed their set out better than with "Mortal Share" and "One for Sorrow". Insomnium always leaves one thirsting for more, and this performance was no exception.

A few friends will chastise yours truly for this, but sheer exhaustion forced us to leave before Einherjer‘s set. It ended up being a good thing, however, as a friend had hurt himself and was waiting by himself by the taxi stand, so at least we could lend him a little bit of support.

A great evening, nevertheless, and with just one more day to go, there was still plenty more metal goodness to experience.



More pictures from SUMMER BREEZE 2014 here