Graspop Metal Meeting: Day Two
Band Photo: Cradle Of Filth (?)
Being awoken by drunks at a festival is to be expected, being awoken by rain, was not. The second day of the Graspop Metal Meeting was considerably more dreary than the first when it came to weather, but just like the first day, there was still a fantastic lineup of metal to look forward to.
After deciding to stick around in the campsites for a little while, we headed into the main area to be greeted by the frustrating news that tonight's headliner, Ozzy Osbourne, has cancelled his performance due to laryngitis. Instead, second from top Judas Priest would be taking over the headlining position with an extended two hour set and Belgian metal veterans Channel Zero would be stepping in to fill the empty slot, bumping Whitesnake up the bill in the process.
Although we missed the first couple of bands on saturday, we arrived with plenty of time to catch the second band on the main stage, Italian gothic rockers Lacuna Coil. The band performed a solid set with material which focused mostly on their last three albums, "Comalies," "Karmacode" and "Shallow Life" and were on fine form. Although singer Cristina Scabbia receives much of the attention lavished on the band, her singing partner Andrea Ferro also deserves a huge amount of recognition, as both singers voices sounded absolutely perfect. The fans were clearly enjoying it too, otherwise they wouldn't have stayed throughout the entire set in the miserable weather, not just bearing the climate, but singing along and raising their hands too. Scabbia carried herself on stage with a real ballsy attitude, the kind that shows just how well women really can fit into rock and metal music, and was able to coax the crowd into singing as loud as they could for the Depeche Mode cover, "Enjoy The Silence." I must say there were a few songs I was hoping it would be included in the set that weren't, most notably, "Swamped," but nevertheless, they were still a captivating live spectacle and disappointed no-one.
It would then be a while before I was to catch another set in full, having only caught a few songs from Kylesa in one of the Marquees to avoid the rain and watching the first song from Greek power metal outfit Firewind before deciding it was time to eat. In any case, we made sure we were in Marquee 1 with plenty of time to spare to catch Triptykon, one of the main reasons I wanted to return to Graspop. Following their chilling, "Crucifixus" intro, the band broke into the Celtic Frost classic, "Procreation Of The Wicked." The song went down a storm but in all honesty, took some time to recognise as it has become a much slower and more doom metal laden affair than what is heard on the "Morbid Tales" album. It was truely a thrill to see Tom G. Warrior back on stage, displaying the dark intensity that has made him such a popular figure in metal music for almost three decades. He wasn't the only notable member of the band too, as Dark Fortress guitarist V. Santura was able to perform with total accuracy and bassist Vanja Slajh showed everyone that she has a mesmerising stage presence too. After "Procreation..." the band busted out one of their own tracks in the form of "Eparistera Daimones" opener, "Goetia," before heading back into more familiar territory with another Celtic Frost song, this time "Circle Of The Tyrants." Warrior thanked the fans afterwards, displaying the utmost sincerity and grattitude for the warm welcome the audience had given Triptykon, before launching into another Frost staple, "Babylon Fell." Only four songs into the set and it was time for the last, in this case, Triptykon's album closer, "The Prolonging." It takes some balls to perform a twenty minute song at a festival and it takes alot of musicianship and charisma to keep the crowd interested, which is exactly what they did. "The Prolonging" is clearly a song the group are very proud of, as performing it meant that they had to cut out other brilliant songs both of their own and the Frost catalogue. Having seen Celtic Frost before, I can say that seeing Triptykon is as close as one can get but with the added bonus of their own, outstanding material. I eagerly await seeing them again.
Time to lighten the mood a little next on the main stage, where Black Label Society came out to raucous cheers, with frontman Zakk Wylde adorning a Native American headdress. After playing around with feedback and showing off a few guitar tricks, the group launched into opener, "Crazy Horse." I must admit I struggled at times with Black Label Society's set due to Wylde's vocals sounding quite similar to his guitar sound, a quality which became apparant during the first few songs as their sound was not as good as it could have been to begin with. In any case, the crowd went absolutely wild for BLS, with as much beer being consumed as there was were fists in the air and heads banging. A problem I've had with Wylde in the past is the length of his live guitar solos, which seem, at least to me, as though they go on for hours. Today was to be no exception and after a minute or two, I began to tire of the skills on display quite quickly. That said, there were plenty in the audience who enjoy this sort of thing and they showed their full support and appreciation by cheering as loud as possible. The biggest response seem to come towards the end when the band performed "Concrete Jungle," from their 2006 album, "Shot To Hell," before finishing up with "Stillborn." They were certainly impressive and the crowd loved them, but they didn't stick out as one of the best features of the festival.
Following another break, it was off to the MetalDome, Graspop's smallest stage to catch doom metal heroes Electric Wizard. I was curious to see what their brand of gloomy, groove laden metal would be like in a live setting, but they proved to be one of the best performances of the day. Opening with the fantastic, "Satanic Rites Of Drugula" from the 2007 album, "Witchcult Today," the group instantly got fans moving along to the music, grooving in a slow but very fun fashion. They followed "...Drugula" with "The Nightchild," curiously the only song they performed from their latest album, "Black Masses," before heading back to "Witchcult Today" with the song, "The Chosen Few." Three songs in and already the band had performed for half an hour. Fortunately for those of us in the ever growing crowd, there was still more to come as Electric Wizard dipped their toes in the waters of "Come My Fanatics..." by performing the record's opening track, "Return Trip," before closing their set with music from what has been called "the best album of the 2000's," "Dopethrone," performing the title track and "Funeralopolis." Even if doom and gloom isn't your type of music, Electric Wizard are well worth your time and money as they are able to grab your attention, keep it for as long as they intend to and still leave you begging for more.
Monster Magnet is a name I'd heard for years, but never really checked out properly, so it seemed that heading over to Marquee 2 would be a good time to experience them for myself. For some reason though, I just couldn't get my head around them. They're a great rock band, no question, but I found much of their music to follow the same formula and at times had trouble telling one song from another. It appeared I was in the minority today though because every other member of the audience seemed to adore them. Unfortunately, as I am not too familiar with their music and my memory is a little hazy, I don't know the names of any of the songs played during their set, but I assume there were some fan favourites in the mix because certain songs were greeted with a louder response than others. All in all, I felt they were a solid band and they know what their fans want, but aren't the most gripping performance you'll ever see.
Back over to the main stage next where the award for most stereotypically British person went to David Coverdale of Whitesnake. Words like "fellow" and "chuffed" may be fairly commonplace back home, but most of the Europeans here didn't seem to be able to grasp what he meant exactly and thus, just cheered whenever a song was introduced or played. A fun little game we came up with during the Whitesnake set was to count how many times they perform a song with the word, "love" in the title (Venom fans can play the same game with the word, "hell,") though the game seemed to lose it's thrill when we actually lost count. Coverdale was in interesting form today as a singer, frequently shrieking loudly and screaming, which felt like an attempt to appeal to the fans of heavier music in the crowd. He needn't have bothered though because the musicians in the group were surprisingly crushing, with a pounding rhythm section that caught the ears of all concerned and guitar players who could shred with the best. Although some new material from their new album, "Forevermore" was unleashed, it was, as expected, the classics which received the loudest feedback, particularly set closers "Here I Go Again" and "Still Of The Night," which is frankly, absolutely brilliant live. The band will never win over the hearts of hardcore metal fans with their brand of romantic rock, but they will give you plenty of entertainment in a live setting.
Given the choice of Marquee headliners Cradle Of Filth and Bullet For My Valentine, we opted to head to Marquee 1 and check out the Filth. Although I have never really liked the band, I'd always wanted to check them out live and see what they're like. It turns out the musicians in the band are pretty good and display enough skill and talent to make the audience go completely nuts, which they did. Horns were raised everywhere, people were screaming along to their favourite songs and I even saw one man slam dancing with full force, complete with lit cigarettes in his hand and mouth. Maybe it's because he now uses the moniker, "Lord Filth" but lead singer Dani Filth seemed to be trying to compete with David Coverdale for the title of "English Gent of the Day," using an upper class tone while still trying to rile up crazed metal fans and introduce songs, ultimately sounding like a cross between Jeremy Irons and The Joker. While his usual singing voice was tolerable, his attempts at high pitched screams were appalling and sounded like a nail being scraped on a blackboard. The set up was rather distracting too, as they used a video screen behind them to display their music videos while the band performed, confusing me as to whether the female vocals were pre-recorded before my companion pointed out that the keyboardist was the one singing (further confusion ensued when it was alleged that she was not actually playing the keyboards and that someone could be spotted doing her musical duties in the sound booth, though I didn't see this phantom for myself.) Nevertheless, Cradle were able to please the majority of the audience and it's safe to say that no fan of the group went back to their tent disappointed, though others may have left with mixed feelings about the performance.
Twenty to eleven and it was time for sudden headliners, Judas Priest to take the stage. There was a feeling of sadness in the air tonight as everyone knew this is Priest's farewell tour, making it unlikely for many that they would get to see the metal gods live again. Given that the bass drum was adorned with the cover of the 1980 classic, "British Steel" album and that the band opened with "Rapid Fire" before stomping into "Metal Gods," one had to wonder if they would once again be perform the record in full like they did on select dates last year. However, when "Heading Out To The Highway" was belted out third, it soon became apparant that this would not be the case. The great thing about Judas Priest live is that they always dig deep into their rich catalogue and pull out a few surprises, which surfaced here with such songs as "Starbreaker" and "Never Satisfied," as well as showing off their continued prowess with newer material, in this case "Judas Rising" and "Prophecy," while still giving the fans what they want and performing classic songs like "Victim Of Changes." "Breaking The Law" was of course unleashed tonight but the strange thing is that singer Rob Halford did not sing a word, leaving it up to the audience to carry the tune instead. My guess would be that this was done as to preserve his voice for the next song, "Painkiller," which is extremely difficult for a young singer, let alone a man of Halford's age. It went down a treat though and was yet another highlight of a performance filled with many. The feeling that something was missing was soon corrected at the start of the first of three encores when the band performed "Electric Eye," the opener of 1982's superb, "Screaming For Vengeance" album. Then came the moment everyone was waiting for, the louder than armagdeddon rev of a Harley Davidson motorcycle being ridden on stage by Halford for the classic, "Hell Bent For Leather" which sent the crowd into a frenzy, before finishing up a typically brilliant performance with "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" and "Living After Midnight." Bands like Judas Priest are great reminders of why heavy metal is such a wonderful and enchanting art form. Their live show is second to none and they carry the banner with tremendous pride, instilling that same feeling into every member of the audience. As it may be the last chance you get, do yourself a favour and catch the band on tour, as they made an amazing day perfect with their electric performance.
You can read about the rest of the festival by clicking on the links below:
Black Label Society - "Concrete Jungle"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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