TONS OF ROCK 2016 – Dag 3 – Halden

TONS OF ROCK 2016 – Dag 3 – Halden

Saturday brought the Swedish all star band, Ammunition, as opener on the main stage. A good dose of melodic rock and corresponding attitude to set the right mood for another day of concerts. Plenty of guitars, keys, show offs, I could say it was a show that could have as well been scheduled later in the program, if it hadn’t been for the big names that followed. But before that, I took the steep way up to the Huth stage to watch the young band Unholy Tempest and admire the dedication to deliver everything as professional as possible, even if they haven’t been performing for decades. I hope they’ll be persistent in this attitude as it can help having their extreme metal music delivered to more and more festivals and venues.

PAIN live @ TONS OF ROCK 2016
(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

Back to quite some years of musical experience, both on stage and as producer, and we have Peter Tägtgren and Pain up on the main stage. I’ve always wanted to see this performance and I admit that the man has something hypnotising about his presence. At least live, when he wears a straitjacket and the makeup that make the eyes look extremely mad. I haven’t listened to Pain in ages, but it was a very nice experience to recognise so many of the songs and to be reminded of their insanity in how they just mix everything up together, somehow without any common sense, yet the result is a catchy and pleasant mix of metal and industrial elements. And since such a mix put me in an ‘experimental’ mood, I paid a visit to the tent stage to have a look at the Steak Number Eight. Basically cause the band name sounded so fun. And I ended up at a funny concert with serious music. Must have been some of the most elaborate song constructions for the day, if not for the whole festival. There’s so much force in their music, which touches a lot of directions, from jazzy beats to psychedelic singing, heavy riffs and a lot of treats for prog nerds. The kind of band that doesn’t belong to a genre, but surely has something fresh to bring and you can only admire how far they dare to go to achieve the craziness of their compositions. Adding them on my ‘to watch’ list.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

Back to the main stage and I believe everyone was having something to comment about the whole stage setup for the upcoming Amon Amarth show. Two gigantic dragon heads on each side of the drumkit, and a very fitting backdrop, all giving the stage quite the viking vibe that they are so famous for. Both young kids and old folks in the audience seemed to be familiar with the band’s tunes, screaming and throwing their fists in the air and altogether having a good time. I am not the biggest fan of the music, but I admit it does have a charm when performed live in such a setting. And then the dragonheads are used either by mr Hegg or by the guitarists to climb on top of them and perform a song there, the impact is even greater. The climax moment is when a giant Thor hammer is brough by the vocalist and carried around to bring the viking metal experience to a new level. There is always good energy on stage with this band and the singer probably manages to point at everyone in the audience by the end of the show, giving you that little extra special experience.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

One very expected show for me was Red Harvest whom I have watched in awe at Blastfest earlier this year, at their come back show that was a total killer. The many years of inactivity left them quite hungry for stage performances, and they haven’t lost that since Blastfest. The singer even mentioned at the end of one intense song, when the applause and cheerings were at their peak – this is why we picked up the instruments again. Hopefully they won’t put them back down as the mental state they create with their intense grooves is something worth of experiencing several more times. Since I spent most of the concert having some food, I’ll write few words about this side of the festival. It’s true, you are not far from a city with open shops and plenty of restaurants, but this is not an excuse for the rather poor choice of food. Then again, bringing anything up in the middle of that fortress is not easy either, so there’s probably not a big interest from the caterers either. It’s not that food was bad, it’s just nice to have more than 5-6 places to pick from. One big difference this year was that there were a lot of merch shops, and some extra tents with sponsor organized activities. I can’t remember them all, but there was a Guitar Hero tent for example and one area offering free mobile phone charging. Rather useful.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

Europe was next up on the main stage. I am one of those who only know them for Final Countdown and Carrie and I didn’t really become a bigger fan after the concert. But I must admit the showmanship skills of Joey Tempest, who’s always in a posing posture and you can’t take a bad photo of him, whether he just sits, or jumps, runs, spins the microphone stand, lowers the microphone stands towards the guards in front of the stage or leans against a confused guitarist. It was cheezy but catchy entertainment. My favorite moment though was walking through the crowd during The Final Countdown and watching people dance, especially a bunch of kids who got an even bigger bunch of adults gathering around them and starting imitating their moves. Thumbs up for the improvised flashdance.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

As much as I love the crazy jazzy tunes of Hedvig Mollestad Trio, I made the choice of going to Insomnium’s concert as I think I have less chances of seeing the long haired Finns too soon. They’ve offered a pretty tight performance, blended with a lot of smiles and headbanging and good mood on stage leaving the overall impression of a solid presence and skilled performance. They are really talented at building interesting prog-death-melodic songs and the amount of variety in them really keeps you busy trying to figure out who’s doing what and failing at figuring what might come next. The continuous joy and enthusiasm of the musicians led to a very satisfied crowd who attended in quite a big number, compared to what I expected.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

Time for an omnipresent festival header to take over the main stage: Megadeth. I’ve seen them few times too many, but for some reason the show in Halden seemed like one of the most alive ones. Then I realized that they do actually have a new guitarist and the simple presence of Kiko Loureiro seemed to brighten things up, mood wise. Even Mustaine seemed happier than usual, and I can’t recall seeing David Ellefson moving around so much and holding the bass in such a variety of photo stances. But then again, I usually wasn’t watching much of their shows anyway. I was glad I did it this time. Especially as people started crowd surfing and the highlight of that was a dude dressed up as spiderman, who floated over the crowd a few times, until the security guys decided it was enough. It’s a pity if he got kicked out from the festival area because of that, but hey, things can’t go uncontrolled around here.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

One last trip to the small stage on top of the hill where Nekromantheon was closing that stage in style. In their own style. Fast, fierce and furious, not messing around, the band from Kolbotn proves that Norwegians have something to offer when it comes to quality thrash metal. There’s almost no place for anything mellow, everything is brutal and they still stay high on my top of heaviest live performances.

(Photo: Andrea Chirulescu)

The final ritual is directed with clockwork precision by the Polish death metallers Behemoth. It is a well rehearsed show, full of details, starting with Nergal entering the stage, bearing two torches that he blows off as the beats of Blow your trumpets Gabriel start roaring. Nergal is another good frontman, but given the choice of outfits and facepaint, the other two guitarists are pretty impressive to look at, turning the whole occult theatrical experience into an enjoyable end of the festival.

A festival edition where people have tried new ideas, some felt as improvements, some as a drag, but as long as good mood and company are main ingredients, there’s rarely much space left for complaints. I’d much rather congratulate everyone for the effort and keep my fingers crossed there’ll be many more editions with good metal music inside the Halden fortress’ walls. I like the place and the vibe it adds to the whole event. Until next year, enjoy the photo galleries already uploaded on Eternal Terror’s webpage.