SUMMER BREEZE 2014 – Day three – Dinkelsbühl – Germany

SUMMER BREEZE 2014 – Day three – Dinkelsbühl – Germany

Day 3

Unfortunately, the last day began with our friend still feeling awful from a leg injury sustained the day before, with him skipping the last day of the fest as a result. Sucks, but thankfully, he was doing a lot better the next day.

Due to the bus to the festival site being relatively late, we missed the first noted band of the day, Kampfar. A major letdown, as they’re one of the best live bands going. Sorry, guys!

Thankfully, we arrived to the festival site in time to get to Thyrfing. Being a fan of this band for well over a decade, it was a long time coming to witness them live. Their hard-hitting brand of Nordic black metal has always been unique, and their blistering performance matched the quality of their recorded output. Presence is the word to describe them, especially with songs like "The Voyager" and "Mjölner".

Power metal isn’t really this guy’s forte, however, there are some bands that have some of quality that are worth checking out. Brainstorm are one of those bands. Having never come over to North America, it was cool to get a chance to see them on their native soil. They put on a solid show that was well-played and fun. Every band member’s overtly white, obviously planned, matching shoes was sort of funny. It was like they were wearing flashlights on their feet. Besides that odd silliness, Brainstorm is good stuff.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

One of the most underrated black metal bands today, it was time for some Imperium Dekadenz. Reaction – holy hell. They rip just as hard live as they do in the studio. Needless to say, that’s harder than avoiding the lousy weather at the festival this year. An all too brief 45 minutes flew by, with songs like "Aue der Nostalgie" and "Reich der fahlen Seelen" being only two examples of a flawless set. If unfamiliar, give Imperium Dekadenz a listen. No regrets will be had.

It was time to go to the only meet and greet that I was able to attend at the festival. It would have been cool to go to more, but seeing bands perform is most important. Thankfully, there was a gap to go and say hello to the awesome guys of Hail of Bullets – namely drummer Ed Warby. Ed’s an awesome guy, so I had to stop by and chat a bit. A friend of mine had bought him a Blu-ray of a hard to find movie (he’s an avid collector of museum-quality Blu-ray discs – no uncovered hands allowed), and it was my duty to tease him about us possibly cracking it open and touch it with filthy hands. It was a great laugh, and it was a pleasure to hang out a bit with all of the Hail of Bullets dudes. Quality people, they are. And if you want to ever give Mr. Warby a gift, give him some of the "eco-friendly" Blu-ray cases that are out there. The ones with the holes in them so that they take less plastic to make, making them incredible flimsy. The guy loves them!

Also, before and after the Hail of Bullets signing, a couple of Obituary songs were watched. The last two times seeing them, they were incredibly underwhelming, bordering on just plain awful. From the small sampling here, however, they looked and sounded really good. Crushingly heavy, as Obituary should be. A pleasant surprise, for certain.

Heading back towards the T Stage, the last few Cripper songs were thankfully caught. Having been first introduced to them on the initial 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, their brand of aggressive thrash has proven infectious in the live arena in multiple viewings since. This was no different. Good show!

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

One of Greece’s most known musical exports, Rotting Christ, began immediately after Cripper finished up. Having seen them many times over the years, their live shows are the true strength of the band. Their material comes alive more so than on album, for whatever reason. They were true to form on this day, with a good stage show and a distinct ferocity. Songs from their latest, "Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού," came off very well live, and the band’s overall show was an enjoyable one. Granted, there was nothing over the top to rave about, but worth the time, for sure.

Fjoergyn followed on the small stage outside the T stage, with their avante garde black metal styling. A band of which have very much created a sound of their own, it would be interesting to see if they could pull it off on stage. For the complexity of their stuff, they did a very nice job. I wasn’t as blown away as hoped, but it was still a very engrossing performance of which one shouldn’t hesitate to see. "Antimensch" sounded particularly good!

A bit of an enigma for this guy currently, it was time for another dose of Greece, this time with SepticFlesh. Their most recent release, "Titan," was an abject disappointment. A major letdown, especially after the supremely awesome "The Great Mass." The hope was to not hear too much of the new disc here, and that their live performances are still on par with the last few times seeing them. They were decent enough here, but something felt missing. I don’t think it’s their smile, as Shawn Michaels once did (non-wrestling fans will make no sense of this). "Communion" sounded the best, and even it felt less punchy. The edginess and fury they always boasted at their shows previous simply wasn’t there. It feels like a band going through the motions. That said, I’d like to see them again, in order to see if this was a fluke or not.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

Thrashers The Very End were on deck, but right before walking out of the tent stage to catch them, a torrential downpour started. Not heavy rain, but soak you in about 0.037 seconds sort of rain. Screw that noise. Luckily, it was a quick passing storm, as it cleared in about 10 minutes or so, enabling an escape from the T Stage to get some thrash on.

The Very End was electric, boasting a heavy thrash attack that was simply unrelenting. Fronted by formed Night in Gales front man – and all-around cool dude – Björn Gooßes, the guys pulled out heavy hitters such as "A Hole in the Sun" and "Letters to the Living." Never thought the chance would come to see these guys, but hey, that’s why we North Americans need to go to European festivals.

Long-running Finnish black metal stalwarts Impaled Nazarene brought an icy change of pace to the T Stage. Having seen them tear up Maryland Deathfest once before, the same level of performance was expected here. No disappointment to report, with kicking out the good stuff like "Armageddon Death Squad," "Condemned to Hell" and "Vigorous and Liberating Death." Nothing unexpected from these guys, displaying a raw black metal attack that’s cold as Helsinki in February.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

It’s Warby time! Yup, time for some Dutch death metal, as Hail of Bullets time had come. Easily one of the best death metal bands around, these guys have been pumping out quality music that keeps getting better. Having been lucky enough to see them at Maryland Deathfest (bring them back, dammit) twice, this would be the first chance to catch them on their home continent. Simply put – this was the best performance this guy has yet to see from them – heavy, potent, and just plain perfection. Not a single negative. Singer Martin van Drunen was in top form, the guitars sharper than shrapnel, and drummer and world leader in baldness Ed Warby was a monster behind the kit.

As for songs, "Swoop of the Falcon" started the set right, with "Operation Z" continuing the campaign (corny, yeah, but it fits). My personal favorite from their latest album, "DG-7," almost instantly gave me a nice bit of neck strain. Finishing off with "Ordered Eastward" couldn’t have been a better choice, leaving everybody chanting the band’s name, hoping for more. Really, one could never have enough Hail of Bullets. One of the best death metal bands today delivers on all fronts. I want to see them again immediately!

The infamous Wintersun were next. By the time we made our way over to the Pain stage, however, it was packed to the brim. So, the view wasn’t exactly ideal. It was serviceable enough, however, and the Finns did a nice job. It might have been better if they had an army of crowd funded super computers running every aspect of their live sound, but you can’t have everything, right? All joking aside, as always, Wintersun was on their game. "When Time Fades Away" and "Winter Madness" were the highlights of a solid, hour long show.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

During Wintersun, we began to jockey for position for one of this guy’s favorites – Heaven Shall Burn. A band a lot of people – especially in the US – won’t give a chance because of stupid genre labels. Fact is, they’re excellent song writers, write some of the most crushing riffs around, and just plain rip in every way.

These guys are also massive in Germany, so the main stage was packed in pretty tightly. The crowd was certainly fired up for them, with unending chants before they began. The band had a long 1-1/2 hour set, as well. Unfortunately, all of that couldn’t be watched, due to a clash with another top draw band. More on that later.

The Germans blasted out of the gate with "Counterweight" and "Land of the Upright Ones" to get the set going right. Their stage setup consisting of props that looked like a destroyed city fit well, along with a lot of bursts of fire. "Combat," classic tune "Voice of the Voiceless" and the band’s anti-whaling track "Hunters Will Be Hunted" kept the crowd in a mad frenzy.

Then I had to leave.

Why, you ask? A direct clash with Legion of the Damned, that’s why. One of the worst clashes that could possibly have happened (worst would have been any major clash with Wolfheart). After lots of deliberation, it was decided to watch about 40 minutes of Heaven Shall Burn, run – literally run – to the T stage and watch most of the 60 minutes of Legion of the Damned’s set, only to run back to watch the end of Heaven Shall Burn. Sound tiring? It was. However, it had to be done!

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

So, after the run through the mucky puddles that riddled the festival site, I arrived at to catch Legion of the Damned for the last few seconds of "Bleed for Me." That ended up being only the second song of the set, so not much was missed! Whew!

If unfamiliar with these guys, you’re not alone. Especially if you’re not from Europe. They get virtually no coverage or exposure in North America – an absolute travesty and a major dropped ball – but are very popular in Europe. The Euros know their quality. Simply some of the best death/thrash on the planet, and they’re not to be missed!

Continuing on, the Dutchies ripped out stunners like "Bury Me," "Pray and Suffer," "Night of the Sabbath" and "Cult of the Dead." These guys don’t quit, with each song equally speedy, tight and heavier than something that’s really, really heavy. One cannot express how good this band is without actually seeing them in action. One of the major draws to coming to a European festival – quality like this.

The band finished up with two of their best – "Doom Priest" and the riff-filled "Legion of the Damned."

As soon as the last note was played, the sprint was on to get back to Heaven Shall Burn, just in time to catch most of "The Weapon They Fear." The set was completed with "The Disease," "Trespassing the Shores of Your World," and the acclaimed cover of Blind Guardian’s classic "Valhalla." The hope was that Hansi of said Guardians would show to sing his parts – like he did on the recorded version – but alas, that didn’t happen. What made it so special, however, is that the band unrolled a gigantic banner dedication to the recently passed organizer of Summer Breeze, Michael ‘Mr. T’ Trengert. Class all the way, guys, which by knowing the high character of the members of Heaven Shall Burn, is of no surprise whatsoever.

(Photo: Dan Barkasi)

Filthy black metal masters Watain immediately followed on the Pain stage, and we somehow managed to get a good spot on the left front side of the stage. The band put on an intricate and over the top stage show. "Black Flames March" and "Reaping Death" were the best moments in what was the best performance from the band this guy has yet to see. Maybe it’s because we were outside on a cool night, therefore the threat of smelling them was a non-factor. That honestly contributed positively, however, the band playing super crisply and the added factor of a well-done stage presentation combined to be a perfect storm for a top notch Watain performance.

After Watain, it was sadly time for the last band – for me, anyway, as there was no desire to watch Sahg – Germany’s new sludge two-piece Mantar. Supporting their debut album, "Death by Burning," it’s hard to imagine the huge sound coming from these two guys. They possess a lot of punch, which is something a lot of sludge lacks. Simply, some really heavy and poignant songs. Their live presentation is odd, though. The guitarist/vocalist and drummer face each other the entire set, so the audience is watching them from the side. Almost zero crowd interaction, either. Just go on stage, blast out some killer riffs, and that’s all folks. Very interesting and enjoyable.

After that, it was time to get a cab to go back to the hotel and get a good night of sleep before heading back to Frankfurt for the long trip home.


Wrapping Up

Here we are! Four days of watching almost 50 bands amongst some lousy weather with a bunch of really amazing people. The lousy weather thing could have been better, but other than that, this festival was an absolute blast of which I’d do over again 100 times over. Possibly more!

Summer Breeze is a top notch festival that does things right. The food was fantastic, everything was easily accessible, and the bands were killer. The only downside was the sometimes inconsistent busses to and from Dinkelsbuhl and the festival site. That, however, is something that hopefully can be improved for next year.

Would I go back? Absolutely! The initial announcement already including Powerwolf and Dark Tranquillity is a good start, and if the lineup is as good as this year, there’s a good chance Summer Breeze will see my shadow for a third time.

As for what was enjoyed the most, here’s my top ten bands of the festival:

1. Wolfheart
2. Heaven Shall Burn
3. Legion of the Damned
4. Hail of Bullets
5. Omnium Gatherum
6. Mors Principium Est
7. Maroon
8. Ahab
9. Alcest
10. The Excrementory Grindfuckers

Honorable mentions: Mantar, The Very End, Insomnium, Hypocrisy, Grand Magus, Equilibrium, Thyrfing, Hamferd, Ereb Altor

Thank you very much for reading this, and I hope everybody enjoyed my report! Thanks much to all of the Summer Breeze staff and crew for making this possible and putting on one hell of a festival!



More pictures from SUMMER BREEZE 2014 here