This version of Into The Grave was going to be a bit of a wet one. It started already when I came in the vicinity of Leeuwarden at friday. A hellish downpour rained down on the freeway leading in to Leeuwarden. After parking my car and I walked on the square where this festival was at, the blue sky was back with some friendly white clouds.But that was not the only happy sight. This year there was only a small line to get in and after I collected my wristband, I walked straight into the square and after a quick check of my camera bag I was let in. There were some nice changes this year for Into The Grave. The most prominent one, is the building on the opposite of the leaning tower and the stage. It consists of wooden steps, where one could sit and still enjoy the show. On top of the building there are 2 places where you can seek shelter for the rain. Great! Because that’s something we’re gonna need! The building makes the square smaller, so there were less available tickets this year and that is a problem for a festival that whats to grow. Another new thing is the big screen on either side of the stage. Now you can see the artists from where ever you stand! After checking all this out, it was time for the first band of this festival.
These Belgian punk thrashers start their set enthusiastic, but sadly the vocals are missing in the mix. It takes almost 2 songs before this is fixed. They have a hard time getting the crowed warmed up, but song after song, more people are nodding their head and more and more onlookers keep watching. This is greatly enforced by singer Wally. Wally jumps around the stage, stands on the wobbly sub woofers in front of the stage and climbs on a set of side speakers and jumps of of them. The rest of the band isn’t standing around either. They’re all over the place too, while keeping their focus on their instrument. Pity there weren’t a lot of people, but due to the (expected) rain, a lot of people decided to go later. Too bad!
Toxic Holocaust (USA)
From one toxic to another. This American band is been around for almost 20 years and are still going strong. With a nice varied set the audience is getting treated to an old skool (more or less) thrash set. The more slower and melodic songs are influenced by a variety of genres which sounds very nice too! But especially the fast songs are very well received by the still growing crowd and the first mosh pit of the day is early in the set of Toxic Holocaust. Gradually more and more people move about in front of the stage and this seems to have is effect on stage. The band plays more and more vigorous and the fans love it! Much too soon the last song is announced and the crowd goes berserk. “Bitch” triggers all doubters to enter the mosh pit and let all inhibitions loose. When the set is over I check my booklet and see Toxic Holocaust was entitled to play another 20 minutes! I wouldn’t mind if they would came back to play the additional time, but sadly it wasn’t going to happen.
At last years Fortarock in the City, I wasn’t that impressed by Decapitated. Factual with their sound. There was too much low which dominated the set to a point it got extremely annoing. I shouldn’t be that hard to top that (sound) performance and dammit, it wasn’t! The band demonstrates enormous power and it is pumping insanely. Singer Rafał Piotrowski is throwing his endless dreads around the stage while banging his head and makes sure each and everyone in the crowd is connected. The band plays tight and the annoying ultra low sounds are nowhere to be heard; only the tight sound of the double bassdrums. Awesome performance of Decapitated! Unfortunately at the end of the set, the rain poured down again, which send the crow in to hiding.
Orden Ogan (D)
I’ve never heard of this band before so I look and listen quite unbiased. To be honest, I can appreciate power metal, but not from every band and than not even every song. It is quite busy in front of the stage and apparently I am one of the few who doesn’t know them. The front rows are filled with younger people who sing along a lot of the songs and I must admit that it is quite catchy. Guys my age are more in the back and at the bars as the leave their spots to the next generation of metalheads. There is a lot of fun on stage too and everybody is having a good time. Singer Seeb had his thumb broken and can’t play guitar, so his colleagues takes over that role. With Seeb focusing on singing and playing air-guitar the band is on a roll! There are lots of jokes an smiles on the stage and the tunes are agreeable. I did quite enjoy this gig. Not that I will run to the store to buy a cd, but I wouldn’t mind seeing and hearing them sometime soon on a festival or in a venue.
Delain is in the same socially-accepted-metal-league as Within Temptation and it appeals to a large group of people. It can be played on the radio without batting an eye by its listeners. For the black-, death- and thrashlovers this is not something they appreciate a lot so a lot of the fans of the previous band hang around to see this Dutch band which has made quite a name for themselves. Singer Charlotte Wessels is assisted by George Oosthoek (MaYan among others) at a few songs and that is a great addition. Merel Bechtold is an awesome guitar player and is very visible on the stage. In fact she is the first to enter the stage and claim the limelight. Speaking of the lights…. they are awesome tonight and so is the sound. This could have been near perfect, but sadly the weather changed within minutes from light rain to a heavy shower. There is no way of hiding and the water is even pouring on to the stage. During the second song there is a power outage and only the lights are on, but there is no sound. It takes quite a long time to find the cause, so I seek for shelter but to find it only in the parking garage under the square. It is hot and damp there so I get into my car and switch on the airco to get dry and dry off my gear. When I hear the band play again I climb up to the square, to find it still pouring down. I see loads of people leave the square and doubt to wait for some dry time, but decides against it. There is no dry place to find on the square that isn’t taken, so I walk to my car and drive to my place where I stay for the night. The next day I heard the set of Gojira was great but very wet. Only a handful of people were left and the band was very grateful for them.
Today I have the honor to be the first visitor to enter the square and that is my luck. Within minutes the only shower of the day is falling and I can pick a place to find shelter. I choose the top of the new building on the square and have a look of all the people pour in.Luckily the rain is not as heavy and long as yesterday, so within 10 minutes it is dry again.
Dust Bolt (D)
The second day is getting kicked off by the German Thrash band Dust Bolt. I’ve seen them on Pitfest this year and I quite liked their set. Lenny is still quite nervous at the start of the set, but those are good nerves I presume. The set is extremely energetic and Lenny, Flo and Ben are all over the place. The only sad thing is, that the sound is really really bad. Later in the set it is getting a bit better, but this is not something you hope for as a bit nervous, starting band. Nevertheless, a quite good set if you take the conditions in to account!
I guess the weather gods aren’t in a happy mood, as a downpour hits the square in Leeuwarden right before the set of Goatwhore. Again I seek shelter on top of the new building, but that was not the smartest decision. I surely stood dry, but it was crammed with people on top of that building, so I had no opportunity to leave. When it stopped raining I climbed down the wet wooden stairs to make it just in time to take some pictures during the third song of Goatwhore. The number of people in front of the stage is rapidly growing from a few hundred to about a thousand. The hardcore fans are easily recognizable; they’re literally dripping with rainwater! They are soaked! Metal is stronger than the weather gods it seems, and halfway through the set of Goatwhore the clouds drift away and the rays of fire from Satan came to warm and dry us, according to singer Ben Falgoust. I like that thought! Although it is early in the day, Goatwhore is killing it and the crowd is having the best of times. Goatwhore is surprisingly melodic and plays insanely tight. Singer Ben moves about, but has quite some theatrical gestures to give more depth to the lyrics. Not only do people move in front of the stage, but in the growing ring around the mosh pit, people truly watch the show too! The sound is quite good and I love every minute of it. Goatwhore is worth every penny and fore sure I am a fan!
I had my doubts when I saw the purple backdrop of Gloryhammer, but when singer Angus McFife (real name: Thomas Winkler) entered the stage, OMFG was my first thought. I was glad the band didn’t take them selves all too seriously and once beyond the first impression, the set (or should I say: act) is hilarious! Again there are problems with the vocals the first song, but when it hits off… it isn’t going to stop! The more younger crowd is singing along with every song (which isn’t that hard by the way) and Angus McFife is playing the intergalactic hero in an over the top metal theater production. Musically it isn’t that bad at all, but is it metal? It is the more parody kind of metal and when I check the band out online, I see Christopher “Alestorm” Bowes is a band member and thát explains a lot! With that in mind, it gets funnier by the minute. Angus/Thomas is playing the crowd and the ones who think this is great or funny is playing along with his charade. The atmosphere is silly and when there is an on-stage “fight” (alien throws the gloryhammer to Angus when the latter makes only one gesture) between an alien and our super hero, it reaches an all time low and high depending what your expectations are. During this set a documentary is made about the men and women who catch the crowdsurfers, so people get encouraged to crowdsurf. But when the footage is shot, the waves of people are coming and it is getting extremely busy! I am in for a good laugh and as much Alestorm is about beer, metal and laughs, Gloryhammer is too. Nothing too seriously, just a good time and that is just what Gloryhammer is.
Dying Fetus (USA)
I’m a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place… Musically I really like Dying Fetus, but the vocals of John Gallagher is not something I fancy much. The vocals of Sean Beasley are a bit more to my liking, but he is only the second voice. But who am I? After Gloryhammer the real-deal-metalheads need some relieve of tension and they are going insane! The absolute forte of this band is, the fullness of the sound. There is not one moment you guess there are only three persons on the stage. The lengthily pauses between songs is something that is needs some work, as they could have played an extra song easily. That this band has a sense of humor shows, when John encourages a guy in the audience to crowdsurf his inflatable crocodile to the front. Of course the guy climbs on his crocodile and rides the audience to the front. The rather stoic John is having a laugh when he sees the guy riding is wobbly inflatable crock! All in all a great performance with a crowd who was in need for a band like this.
Suicidal Tendencies (USA)
Goddammit! Suicidal has been around for ages and Mike is not getting any younger, but this guy is no more than 10 seconds in one place! The whole band is in a way, but Mike and Ra Díaz are the most jumpy. The set is 50 minutes and it Suicidal is like a hurricane! Every-single-second! Unbelievable the energy that is given and comes back double. The crowd is really going mental and there is so much movement on the square, the floor is moving a bit. The set is going by way too fast, and in the end the crowd is asked to join the band on stage. Within seconds the barriers are climbed by hundreds of people and they climb on the stage and hoisting each other to join the fun. The band is enjoying this immensely, but the security isn’t that happy. When the stage is filled to the brim, people are send back and that goes without problems. When the song is over the crowd is orderly walking off stage and have a superb experience! Damn what a band this is!
Paradise Lost (GB)
After the energy release of Suicidal, the more doomy sounds of Paradise Lost are welcomed to ease the mind a bit. I love doom and I love Paradise Lost, but to have them on a festival? I have some doubts. I see not a lot of connection with the majority of the crowd and I take a spot a bit on the side in the sun en close my eyes to let the music sink in. Doom in bright sunlight doesn’t quite add up to me, but shut off from the rest of the world (visually that is) it isn’t that bad. Musically it is awesome and spun out and singer Nick Holmes is rather stoic, but in perfect synchronicity with the music. And I? I enjoy the moment of relaxation and great music! Awesome!
At The Gates (SWE)
After a the doom it is time for some fast and furious metal! At the gates was impressive in 2016 at Dynamo Metal Fest, but to spoil the fun a bit, this performance belittles that. The band has lust for a party and so does the crowd. Singer Tomas is having a blast as he cheers on the crowd. The crowdsurfers come in waves and the catchers have a hard time to put theme safely on the ground again, but they manage. Even being kicked in the face (by accident) does not stop these heroes! The crowd is getting mental and at one point a disabled man in his electric wheelchair scooter is lifted up to crowdsurf. The scooter is extremely heavy and there is no way the catchers can handle that scooter once it crosses the barrier, so the crowd is ordered to put it down. They try three times and the fourth time, the disabled man is lifted from his scooter (with his consent ofcourse) to surf the crowd to the barrier. There he is put on the ground with utmost caution and someone walks him back to his scooter through the crowd, which splits for him like the red sea. A loud roar rises up when he is back in is scooter and even Tomas from at the gates is having a chuckle. This is what I love about this scene! Fucking great music and grant others who may be not so fortunate, to join the fun. Ow yeah… At The Gates fucking awesome… of course!
Children Of Bodom (FIN)
I always liked Children of Bodom, but seeing them live was going to be an experience and I wasn’t let down. Children of Bodom is insane! If you like the records like I do, you have to see them live! I was truly flabbergasted by this performance and this all without a noteworthy soundcheck! The layering of the sound is stellar and even the guitar- with keyboard solo was very enjoyable! The set is a mix of ultra fast songs and some slower ones, but the balance is just right. As for the crowd, it looked like they had a day on the gold coast in Australia… Never seen so much crowdsurfers at once and the barrier was filled with catchers getting everybody safe on the ground. The downside of that being, that if you think you have the best spot in the venue, you only see catchers bellies and get boots (and an occasionally pretty lady!) in your neck. Oh well, with some cold beer in the sun, that all is bearable.
Nergal and his men couldn’t wish for a better buildup to their set than At The Gates and Children of Bodom! With a relatively short changeover, when the dark is set in, the satanic sounds start and the crowd is anticipating of the famous and notorious show of Behemoth. With a new album coming, the band is treating everybody present to the new song GOD=DOG on Into The Grave. Older songs are received very well too, and they all sound awesome, but the most interesting thing is the show of this band. There is a lot to see and with an impressive use of pyrotechnics the show is nothing less than spectacular. The only point of criticism is the fact that Nergal is, of course, standing a lot behind his microphone. The stand is impressive a beautiful crafted, but it is also very big. It blocks a part of the show Nergal is performing and that is a shame, because some of the most interesting parts take place there, right behind his microphone stand. Nevertheless the show is awesome and so is the music. This is the kind of show you have to see multiple times to have seen every element and really submerge into the satanic rituals of Behemoth. Heavily impressed I leave the grounds of Into The Grave just a few songs before Behemoth is ending their gig. Before leaving, Testament was announced to play on Into The Grave in 2019. That is going to be a nice one too! If Into The Grave is going to be held in the city center of Leeuwarden remains to be seen. Rumors have it, that Into The Grave is moving to another location and maybe even to a whole other city in Friesland!The organization had made it clear some time ago, that they want to grow with more visitors and wish to expand to 2 stages and this is just not possible in the center of Leeuwarden.Driving home form Into The Grave 2018 I thought of how I thought on forehand the line-up of this year was not the strongest, but boy was I wrong.Sure, one cannot like all bands, but I was getting a few surprises these 2 days!Before departure I added Goatwhore and Children of Bodom to the playlist for the trip back home and I was home in a jiffy! Hopefully without any tickets…