With a little less than a half an hour to spare to the first band, the gates to Oldehoofsterkerkhof, the location of Into The Grave, are opened when I receive my press wristband. The line of attendees of the festival in front of the entry is huge. There is a queue of hundreds of meters filling the width of the streets and I guess I am going to miss the first band. Luckily there is an extra entry, which a lot of people apparently don’t see and after a thorough check of my camera bag and an extra check by the polite security guys and girls I’m in the square within 5 minutes after getting my wristband. I later under stand I’m one of the lucky ones to get in so swiftly.I get my gear ready and the old cemetery is already filling up nicely when the first band of the day is announced.
More and more people wanting to see this relative new Dutch groovy metalcore band since they played the large festival of PinkPop. The Charm The Fury is around for some 7 years now, but 2017 is their break-through when they signed with Nuclear Blast and released an album in March. Singer Caroline Westendorp is as energetic as always, but the audience needs more time (beer?) to warm up. Typically for the genre of The Charm The Fury the audience is a bit younger, but the older metalheads nodding their head too.
Flotsam and Jetsam (USA)
When I picked up my host for the weekend earlier, he told me he went to the pre-party yesterday with Flotsam and Jetsam and that singer Eric Knutson had a very raspy voice when talking, but that there was no trace of the hoarseness when he sang. So I’m curious if his voice is still as good as it was and that the hoarseness was gone. Singer Eric walks the stage well ahead of time in a Godzilla morphsuite, having some fun with the technicians and stage hands. When it is time to sing, Eric throws back the mask covering his face and damn… what an incredible voice this he still have. But let’s not forget the rest of the band. Although the sound quality isn’t the best, It is obvious this band knows how to play and to perform. In the audience, the majority of youngster made room for the oldtimers and gray-ish hair is flying everywhere and a lot of (nearly) bald heads are bobbing. I simply loved every note of it… then again, I am not that young anymore and my hair ain’t flying nowhere.
Metal Church (USA)
The older metalheads are in for a treat this first day of Into The Grave. Metal Church is one of the Eighties metal bands whom are legendary. At Dynamo Metal Fest last year I wasn’t totally convinced, but I must admit Metal Church performed better this time. Steve Unger is an entertainer of the best kind and plays the crowd with ease. Mike Howe seems to be more at ease and is less jumping around, but still energetic. Metal Church nearly sounds like the old days again and that’s a good thing! Much to soon the last song is announced and Beyond The Black is epic.
The last time I saw Alestorm it was a wild party, so I was curious if it was getting wild this time too. There are not much people dressed up like pirates today and there are just a few inflatable swords, but that doesn’t mean a thing. The band is noticeably not in their best shape and as I understand this is one of the last gigs of a long tour, so that could explain it. Alestorm is synonym for a party and not long after the first track, there were people sitting on the ground rowing. Although the band wasn’t in their best shape and there weren’t that many dressed up Alestorm fans, there was a party all right! The second half of the set it seemed the rum kicked in of the band was more awake, because they were more vivid which affected tot crowd and vice versa. All in all it was a nice party, but the non-metal rave bits, slams and breaks aren’t a positive addition in my opinion.
If you don’t like the powermetal of Powerwolf, you cannot deny that it is still catchy as hell and the theatrical performance of this band could and should be awarded with a Tony Award. There is a lot of interaction with the crowd, which enjoys this theatrical piece enormous! Although there are a lot of predictable moments, the fans expect them and wants them. Musically it is very well played and combined with the great show, this is one of the better acts in Europe at the moment in my opinion and I am not alone in that. Matthew Grey was absent in Leeuwarden due to family affairs which needed his attention and it takes until december until he climbs the stage with Powerwolf again. Matthew was substituted by Markus Pohl, who did quite a job and a half! The only low point of the show is not on the account of Powerwolf, but on the account of the audience when singer Attila almost is hit in the face by a flying cardboard beer tray. I never understood what the fun is of throwing a tray in the air, knowing that one could be injured by it. Maybe it’s an idea to charge deposit money for these trays too, like they did with glasses this year.
The summit of the festival today is the legendary Saxon. I saw Saxon earlier this year in Zwolle and was overwhelmed by the energy and professionalism. Of course there is a truckload of older songs, ancient songs and newer songs to choose from and the set is carefully build up from this enormous list of songs. To be honest, this band is at its best at an outdoor festival. The energy is so much bigger outdoors and the audience gets more submerged in these classic metal hits. Biff remembers playing at Dynamo Open Air and tells the crowd he wants to play more festivals in The Netherlands with Saxon, which results in loud and long cheers. Personally I hope some programmers are listening. Shortly after that, Biff rips the setlist off the monitor and eats it (sort of). He wants to continue without a pre-programmed list. The lightshow of Saxon is memorable! A lot of variation and colours. The only thing missing is a bit of front light, to accent the artists and make them more visible. During “Wheels of Steel” Biff wants the crowd to jump, but just a few are jumping and are doing it half hearted, so Biff shouts: “Come on! I’m fucking older than you are!” This puts the people in motion and the parking garage is moving under the jumping crowd… a weird feeling, even after experiencing it a few times like the time with Sabaton. Then, when the set is over, Biff returns to the stage after a minute or so and tells the fans they can play one more song. So they play 2! After “Denim and Leather” and “Princess of the Night” the first day of Into the Grave is over. Saxon was epic!
Ember Falls (FIN)
The weather forecast for today wasn’t very optimistic. It was going to be mostly dry, but hefty showers were going to happen regularly. When Ember Falls enters the stage, it is raining a little. It is funny to see the difference in age in the front rows when different bands perform. Ember Falls is clearly attracting a younger crowd and quite a few of them wear the same colour make-up as their heroes. Ember Falls is not really my cup of tea, to be honest, but they proof that they are worthy musicians and lay down an interesting show with lots of theatrics by frontman Thomas Grove. Ember Falls is quite interesting to watch. The whole band is quite active on the stage as a matter of fact. A lot of youngster having a blast and shouting the lyrics and raising fists. Great to see the next generation of metal heads are just as fanatic as the older ones are and once were. Right after the set, I get passed by the complete band heading to the other side of the square. In a stall at the other end they sign stuff and take pictures with their fans. Now that’s the way to do it. Hats off for Ember Falls!
Well… what is there left to say? I guess everybody knows by now the story of what happened to Gary Meskil in Brussels recently. It’s fucking amazing he is even here in the first place, let alone he is performing! The scar on his head is still visible, but no-one would ever know of his injuries when Pro-Pain starts to play. God damn this still kicks ass! There is not a lot of movement or interaction on the stage, but still it is amazing they are here and they sound quite good too! In the run up to this event, there were keyboard warriors who “bravely” spilled lies that Pro-Pain wouldn’t perform today, but they were proven wrong and the presenter rightfully addressed them in his announcement. As if it is meant to be, the clouds break away and the sun is shining bright. Immediately it is humid and muggy… typically Dutch weather. Still, there is quite a turn-out to see Pro-Pain and their already legendary Gary. The set is nice, fast and brutal. Respect for Gary and his band!
Recently Textures announced to stop, so this is one of the last changes to see this great Dutch band. The square in front of the stage is getting pretty busy this early and that is a good sign for every band, especially for Textures now. The last album of Textures is a blast and I look forward to this set. As I know the new album quite well, I notice immediately that the sound isn’t right. A lot of the details are lost, but the spectators don’t give a shit and a wall of death is formed and a lot of heads are nodding. Sometimes the sound flares up, but it never lasts a full song. The set is good, but I heard a better set of Textures and it is a pity it was not in their hands this day.
Another legendary band from ages ago is Sodom, Wodos called by the presenter (if you lived under a rock: click). This German thrash band doesn’t need time to warm up, but kick ass right from the first song. With an awesome backdrop of their latest album, the tone has been set. There are quite some old songs too, but if it is the sound or the band, the sharp edge isn’t there every time. I guess it is the soundsetting, as Textures had similar problems. However the volume is quite a bit louder than yesterday. It was great to see this band again after so many years. What a hell of a performance of these guys, after all these years.
Presenter Jacco is a bit earlier on the stage and when the guys who catch the crowdsurfers enter the photopit, he announce them as “The Taliban Catchers” as they all but one have beards. During the first song of Whitechapel he comes in the photopit to take pictures of each and every Taliban Catcher and I saw them somewere on the internet. Fun! The bands name is from the district in London where Jack the Ripper murdered his victims. With this light hearted information it is time to listen and watch to this deathcore band. Personally I think this is quite a complex genre, as it tends to have little variation and Whitechapel has this exact tendency unfortunately, in my opinion. But the crowd in front of the stage don’t agree with me at all! There are swarms of crowdsurfers and The Taliban Catchers have to work hard to get everyone safely on the ground. Whitechapel is not moving about very much, so I have my pictures quite pretty fast and that gives me time to look around. There are a lot of teen girls who stare big-eyed with folded hands under their chin to singer Phil Bozeman or franticly dancing to the tunes. The sight is quite entertaining as there are dozens of these girls… and 1 small boy standing on the fence with his dad, holding his horns high staring his eyes out. When the set is over, one of the girls persuades the security guy to let her in the photopit to ask for the set list and he lets her in. When she asks a stage hand for the piece of paper, she is ecstatic when he hands her 2 pieces of paper. One she gives to someone in the audience and with the other she skips and jumps back to her girlfriend who’s waiting for her behind the fence.
Life of Agony (USA)
I never saw Life of Agony life, but when a friend of mine told me he played as their support I was a bit more curious. It is nearly impossible to tag a genre to this, as it is groovy, melodic, thrashy, sludge and alternative. Singer Mina Caputo wears large sunglasses and a felt flappy hat and moves like a psychedelic hippy from the sixties. I quite like the poses she takes and snap quite some pictures of her. Musically it is fine, with some very interesting parts. The set is played tight with every now and then ripping guitars, which sound superb! The best parts of this set are the speed changes which are well performed and vary a lot.
Now the front of the stage is filled with guys my age, who are ready for some serious action of Overkill. This A-league band of thrashers is still very energetic, which Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth proves by running towards his mic every now and then which stands on the edge of the stage. On a few occasions the toes of his right foot slip over the edge, but he remains in control every time. Bobby speaks quite a bit Dutch, because of his Dutch wife Annette. When he almost gets hit in the face by a beertray, he catches the thing and holds it triumphant in the air and says ”Ik ben geen sukkel!” (“I am not a fool!”). Loud cheers for Bobby arises, but it proves my point of banning these trays. The sound quality varies quite a bit and that is a shame. At times it’s near perfect and the next song it is losing nearly all details. Hopefully the get the sound figured out for the next 2 bands. The set of Overkill is extremely fast and loud(!!) and fucking awesome! Overkill plays a lot of old songs and the majority of my generation is having a blast and banging their (mostly) bald head. When Overkill plays Radar Love of the Dutch band Golden Earring, the parking garage nearly collapses. Goddamn what an awesome band Overkill still is!
Arch Enemy (S)
It is very busy in front of the stage when suddenly a small limp girl is lifted out of the crowd. The security guy puts her over his shoulder and rushes to the medics, followed by her mother. A few minutes later the little girl sits up again and is drinking something. Good job and fast thinking of this security guy! When Arch Enemy start, their show, it is spectacular with fire blasting in the sky. Singer Alissa White-Gulz wears an impressive outfit as ever and this time it looks she is actually having fun. She’s a lot more visible and stands at the front of the stage quite often. The show is smooth and slick and the crowd is enjoying the hell out of it. The volume is cranked up a little more and I must admit, Arch Enemy doesn’t sound half bad… actually they sound quite good! A lot of the younger spectators are singing along at their highest volume and let their hair fly. Loud roars are heard when popular songs like Nemesis are played. After taking pictures I hang around for some time to see the show. As said, the show is slick and well put together and very entertaining.
Amon Amarth (S)
It is now crammed in front of the stage, as everybody wants to see this already legendary band. There is some turmoil among the security guys as the band is using pyro. We, the photographers, are not allowed to take pictures in front of the stage at first. A few minutes later it is allowed, as long as we stick to the fence. We are happy to stand in front of the stage, but when the first flames go up in the air we feel the intense heat of the flames on our skin. The show is nothing less than perfect! There is lot of action on the stage and the lightplan is remarkably colourful for a metal band. The only thing missing is the same as with the show of Saxon; frontlight. From distance the view is spectacular. When I march out of the photopit, Viking warriors appear on the stage and have a sword fight. Spectacular! Luckily this time we don’t have to fight our way back through the spectators with our gear, but we are escorted around the venue to enter again through the main gates. Thanks go out to Erwin for arranging this. The rest of the set I see from the stalls at the end of the square. Amon Amarth is performing in a great show of music, lights and fire. The theatrics like the sword fight and the fight between singer Johan Hegg and an enormous dragon are impressive! Amon Amarth is a worthy headliner of a big festival. When fireworks erupts from the top of the stage, my host and me decide to walk to the car and go home, impressed by the show of Amon Amarth
Musically it was very well put together; a great mix of old and new bands. The weather gods were not very cranky with us metalheads these days, with a dry Friday and only one serious shower and some minor ones on Saturday. With giants like Saxon and Amon Amarth headlining, it will be a challenge to top that next year, but that is what we said last year too!