FESTIVAL REVIEW: GRASPOP METAL MEETING – Day 1 (Friday)
Owais 'Vitek' Nabi
Thunder, rain and mud? After the horrible photos that circulated on the internet from the camp-sites of Download or Rock Am Ring, few fans believed that Graspop Metal Meeting would look any different. But as the festival opened its gates on Friday, the weather situation seemed still quite acceptable – at least no one found dolphins in his coffee or needed a boat to reach his tent and after such wet weeks in Europe.
The morning started with Danish fairy Myrkur. At first sight, this beautiful blonde didn’t look like Black Metal’s great future, but after her haunting acoustic intro, the audience was blown away by the harsh attack of her folkish, brutal Extreme Metal. Mixing soft vocals with violent growls, her music lead through the untouched nature of Scandinavia and opened paths that seemed yet untouched in this genre. Soilwork had to deal with some sound problems though and unfortunately this seems to be a problem that the band faces quite often – their wonderful opener “The Ride Majestic” sounded like a distorted soup of noise and although Speed and his Swedes were in a great mood and showed the usual action that you can expect from the band, this performance was not as thrilling as it could have been. Quite a shame, since the set-list was an amazing ride through the band’s history with a focus on their latest opus from Nuclear Blast.
Better luck with the Italians: The tent was packed, as Fleshgod Apocalypse entered the stage with their opera blast and luckily, the epic death metal machine got a slot in the Marquee, to spread a dark atmosphere for their majestic sound. With their vintage costumes and charming look, the band was a perfect warm-up for the crazy avant-garde supergroup Arcturus, that surely won the award for the weirdest, yet most spectacular show of this Friday. It felt like being stranded on a crazy planet where harmonies and song structures definitely didn’t match the ones we have on planet Earth, but ICS Vortex and his astro-team gathered a huge pile of fans on their home star, since it’s a rather rare phenomenon to catch these guys live in a festival.
Those who wanted to know what love is, only had one chance to find out, with Foreigner on the Mainstage, and of course there is a place for rock and softer tunes at Graspop Metal Meeting. The greatest bands played in the Marquee today and the Extreme Metal fans surely didn’t complain about having a nice and dry space in the tent. So when Moonspell entered the stage, it was time to invoke “Mephisto” – the doomy Gothic Metal of the dark creatures around singer Fernando still carried the vibe of the 90s and with a mix of melody and crushing growls, the Marquee was filled with haunting red light and fog. With wolf howling and massive headbanging, they finished their set with the epic “Fullmoon Madness” and as Fernando joined the drummer by hitting the cymbals, it felt like a little travel back in time.
After several line-up changes, especially on the vocalist front, some Dark Funeral fans had been worried that Heljarmadr wouldn’t be able to raise hell as Caligula once did, but fear not, little Satan worshippers! The latest masterpiece was proof enough that Dark Funeral are at their best and so was their mighty ceremony in Dessel. Especially during “My Funeral”, the hellish frontman seemed to spit his vocal cords out and twist them around the microphone – after so many years, these Swedes still unleashed infernal fires. Whether one is into cello sound or not, Apocalyptica are always worth a watch and therefore many fans only had a quick dinner to avoid missing these spectacular Finns. With a mix of Metallica covers and their own tracks, they were the living proof that cellos are the most metal thing in the world and the huge sea of headbangers seemed to agree.
But then it was time to leave the cozy tent and step out into the windy fields of Belgium again. From all over the continent, people came to see the mighty Black Sabbath, who had already announced that this would be their last tour – no matter if this is true or not, it definitely caused a huge gathering. Sometimes, when such legendary bands come together to celebrate their final hours, it’s by far not as spectacular as people would expect, but Ozzy seemed to have climbed out of his coffin and was back to convince the Belgian fans once more that they are the ultimate “Iron Men” and that you are never too old to rock the masses.
What an excellent start for a massive festival – no swimming tents yet, but plenty of kickass bands. Welcome to Dessel.