Everyone knows that summertime is festival season, and whenever people think of music festivals, they think of events like SXSW and Bonnaroo. Unless they are metalheads. For hardcore rockers, popular summer festivals include Wacken and Hellfest. But, most of the time when music journalists or bloggers write about the summer touring and festival season, metal does not get its due. Sure, metal bands are in on some of these festivals, like Bonnaroo, but they certainly are not the focal point of the events. So, here is a nice summer festival overview for all you metal junkies out there:
Wacken Open Air – Wacken, Germany
Arguably the most famous and premier event in the history of metal festivals, this past Wacken Open Air celebrated its 20th birthday. Mötorhead reportedly put on one of the best shows in recent memory, and all the other old school metal rockers followed suit. Among these great performances were the band formerly known as Black Sabbath (Heaven & Hell) as well as Saxon. Beyond the seasoned veteran bands, word is that doom metal troop Cathedral really won the crowd over (unsurprising, since the band is led by ex-Napalm Death vocalist Lee Dorrian).
Hellfest Open Air – Clisson, France
The second-most famous metal festival on the globe, Hellfest shared only a couple acts with Wacken this year—notably Heaven & Hell who again “wowed” the crowd. The fest’s the buzz bands seemed to be Brutal Truth and “the loudest band on Earth” Manowar, with Manowar having a slight edge (despite reports that Brutal Truth could be heard over Manowar’s set at times). Strangely, little was said about hometown giants Gojira, though there were sparse mentions of a solid set.
Bloodstock Open Air – Catton, UK
Rounding out the big three for metal festivals, this year’s Bloodstock was fodder for great stories. None more awesome than the hilarious/horrible bottling of Cradle of Filth in which the band stopped their set and left the stage without finishing the set. Blind Guardian, Carcass, Amon Amarth and the thrash bands garnered the most props for absolutely bringing it on stage.
MetalCamp – Tolmin, Slovenia
As usual, the bands who headlined this festival are the same bands that headlined the other big festivals. That’s just the way these things work. After scouring the ‘net for any opinions or reports of the festival, I only came to the conclusion that there was no real standout performances, though people were largely unenthusiastic about the lineup as a whole (Mind-boggling, really, since Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon and more were on the bill). The disappointment might have been due to the lack of great underground bands (beyond the huge names), as well as the completely unknown acts from the second stage—except Warbringer, who played before a band with only 1,000 MySpace friends. For shame.
Download Festival – Donington Park, UK
Download Festival, the “least metal” of all the summer metal festivals, was filled with the “nu metal” acts of yesteryear and all the things the kids dig today. So there was a huge variety of musical styles on this bill. No band got as much credit as Faith No More, who put on a performance referred to as “brilliant” by most attendees. Mötley Crüe, Slipknot and Steel Panther also received favorable reviews. On the opposite side of things, a lot of festival goers hated Marilyn Manson, Limp Bizkit, Attack! Attack!, Pendulum and Parkway Drive. Unsurprisingly there was little said about the more “extreme” bands there like Suicide Silence, Meshuggah and God Forbid—the bill did not exactly cater to those fans. What is surprising is that I have found nothing about Opeth and Dream Theater’s sets.
In case you did not make it out to any festivals this summer, or just want to know what is coming up for metal festivals in the near future, here are two of the bigger events on the list:
New England Deathfest – Providence, RI
While not the biggest metal festival, New England Deathfest is having some of the most legendary Death Metal bands headline this year: Neuraxis, Cephalic Carnage and Quo Vadis. Also on the bill is Revocation, touted by many as “the next big thing” in metal and recently signed to Relapse Records. If you’re in the New England area, $50 for this weekend filled with death is well worth it.
Ilha Do Ermal Festival – Viera do Hinho, Portugal
Because I don’t speak Portuguese, it is hard to say much about this festival other than the fact that Blind Guardian is headlining it, which is almost enough reason to go regardless of who else is playing. The fact that Sepultura, Obituary, Firewind, Textures and Hatesphere are also on the bill certainly does not hurt. At 60€ ($85.35), that is a great price for three days of pure metal goodness.