Graspop Metal Meeting: Day Three
Band Photo: Slipknot (?)
After the grey and miserable weather the day before, it was nice to awake on the final day of Graspop and be greeted with plenty of sunshine. While that may not have been the most metal sentence I have ever written, the roster of bands on display may well have been the most extreme of the weekend.
Like the previous day, we wasted a little time in the campsite before heading into the main area to catch the second main stage band, in today's case, Canadian heavy metal heroes, Anvil. Of course, everyone knows the story of Anvil by now, and perhaps that's made this set such a special one. From the opening guitar shrieks of "March Of The Crabs/666" there were smiles all around, not least from frontman Steve "Lips" Kudrow. The fact that everyone could see how much fun the band were having made the fans enjoy it all the more, which I'm sure in turn only fueled the smiles on the faces of Anvil. It might seem a strange word to use to describe a performance from a metal band, but Anvil are a really fun live experience. It's impossible to watch them and not headbang or raise the horns. Kudrow's interaction with the crowd is simply great, not least because he doesn't patronise the audience with cliche lines like "Are you ready to party?" I was also impressed by his ability to perform his guitar duties flawlessly, while still singing. Drummer Rob Reiner and bassist Glenn Five also deserve alot of credit, as their skills were on full display today, particularly Reiner's during, "White Rhino." Having only a fairly short set, only three songs from the group's new album, "Juggernaut Of Justice" were performed today, namely the title track, "On Fire" and "New Orleans Voodoo," but they all went down well with the crowd, who did their best to sing along to the latter. Another highlight came during Kudrow's guitar solo, which he did by playing his axe with a vibrator. An unorthodox method, but effective. As one might expect, they closed their set with the anthemic, "Metal On Metal," which went down a treat for all viewing. While they may not be the greatest heavy metal band to ever grace the Earth, they might well be one of the most enjoyable and were a great way to start the day.
It was then over to Marquee 2 for a little crossover thrash from D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.) There were plenty of old school thrashers in attendance for them, complete with upturned caps and white shoes, and they all seemed to enjoy what they were witnessing. As much as I've always liked the band and crossover in general, I found watching them for as long as I did to be a little much, as most songs follow a similar formula, resulting in the performance getting a little boring after a short while. It seems I was not alone in this opinion, as there were plenty who came in to watch, then left after a couple of songs. D.R.I. are, like Anvil, all about having fun, but they don't possess the same stage presence. Songs like "Snap/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" and "Asleep At The Wheel" are always good to hear, but they felt rather tame today. Perhaps it would be better to catch them in a small club setting, because they weren't able to make it work in the Marquee.
Time for the more traditional approach to thrash next, as German veterans Kreator took to the main stage. Without a doubt, they were the heaviest band to perform on the festival's biggest platform and displayed a crushing intensity from start to finish, with frontman Mille Petrozza barking out the lyrics like a rabid dog. The band opened by showcasing material from their latest album, "Hordes Of Chaos," with the title track kicking things off followed by, "Warcurse," with "Destroy What Destroys You" following a little while later. The songs work much better in a live environment than they did on the album and were able to get the crowd riled up. Classic material wasn't ignored either, with such gems as "Endless Pain" and "Pleasure To Kill" also being aired today, much to the delight of the fans. I'd only seen Kreator once before, in a small venue in Cardiff, and didn't think they'd be able to bring the same level of intensity to such a large setting but they did just that, and they did it perfectly. After going through the now mandatory "Phobia" and "Violent Revolution," Kreator finished up with "Flag Of Hate" and "Tormentor" before heading off to destroy some of other defenceless venue. They proved today that they are one of the most gripping thrash metal bands around and I strongly advise checking them out live.
Back to the Marquee 2 next for Pro-Pain. Like Monster Magnet the day before, I was more or less completely oblivious to their back catalogue. But unlike Monster Magnet, Pro-Pain were able to grab my attention for the first note and hold it until the last. The band's perfect blend of metal and hardcore, coupled together with hip-hop influenced drum beats, made for a really enjoyable set, with plenty of grooving going on in addition to the usual moshing. Frontman Gery Meskil is a true force on stage, catching everyone's eye from the front to the back. They displayed both a passion for what they do and a skill for it, as they were able to perform every song flawlessly. It's a shame I don't know more about their music because I'd love to write about them alot longer, as they were probably the surprise hit of the day. In any case, if you like your hardcore with a bit of variety, check out Pro-Pain live, you won't be disappointed.
After a break, it once again back into Marquee 2 for even more hardcore, this time from Los Angeles based band, Terror. Right from the get go, everyone knew this was a performance not to be missed, thanks largely by the borderline insane rants of singer Scott Vogel, who despite the massive size of the stage and setting, constantly shouted at fans to climb over the barricade and invade the stage. Opening with the single, "Stick Tight" from their latest album, "Keepers Of The Faith," Terror transformed the tent into a dangerous place to be, captivating all in attendance with their violent brand of hardcore. Vogel never slowed down for a second, bounding across the stage and spewing the lyrics out of his mouth with full force. The musicians in the band were on fine form too, staying relatively subdued in comparison to their vocalist, but managing to perform as a tight knit unit which has allowed them to become one of the most popular bands in hardcore today. Terror were probably the only band on this day that rivalled Kreator for the title of most intense performance. Absolutely superb stuff.
Following another break, it was time to subdue ourselves a bit by going to watch Swedish progressive metal veterans Opeth. I'd only heard a few tracks from them before and much like Electric Wizard, was keen to see how their material would sound live, having heard mixed reactions from those who have seen them. What I received was a real treat in musicianship. Following the opening, "The Grand Conjuration," lead singer Mikael Åkerfeldt, proved to be one of the best frontmen of the festival, displaying a charm and wit which has no doubt been integral into making them the popular band they are today. A moment of real comedy came when Åkerfeldt asked the crowd if they would like to hear something from the band's forthcoming new album, "Heritage." After being responded to with overwhelming cheers, the band played exactly one note, followed by Åkerfeldt saying, "There you go. That note will be on the next album." Like Electric Wizard and Triptykon the day before, Opeth never got boring for a second, despite their lengthy song times. The crowd loved every minute of it too, cheering and laughing loudly and generally enjoying themselves. It's a testament to Opeth's charisma that they were able to make a tent with thousands of people inside feel so intimate. I will definitely be checking them out again and they can count me as one of their new recruits to the fan base.
Over to the main stage next for shock rocker turned movie director Rob Zombie. I was really curious to see how Zombie would fare today, given that his show relies on theatrics and he was performing in bright sunlight. Zombie got off to a shakey start quite frankly, mostly due to sound issues where, for the first few songs, the bass drum drowned out pretty much everything else. It also seemed to take him some time to get aquainted with the stage, as he wasn't able to grab attention like the master showman he is known to be. Things certainly picked up during "Living Dead Girl" however when he brought many women from the crowd on stage to dance with his own troupe of risque movers, one of which earned huge cheers from many in the crowd when she decided the weather was so hot she simply had to remove her top, and later her trousers. After this, things seemed to get better for Zombie. The sound cleared up considerably and I was able to hear the whole band much better. Guitarist John 5 was perhaps the most notable musician of the bunch, launching into a fascinating guitar solo before heading into "Never Gonna Stop" from "The Sinister Urge" album, followed by the grand finale of "Dragula." I enjoyed Rob Zombie's set, but felt it would have worked much better either at night or in the marquees, because a shock rock show in the sunshine loses alot of it's effect.
Now it was time for the final Marquee headliners of the festival. Being as though I don't like Bring Me The Horizon, I decided to head back to Marquee 1 and catch Cavalera Conspiracy, who I had seen the first time I came to Graspop in 2008. The tent was absolutely jam packed for the Cavalera brothers, who proceded to launch into "Warlord" from their new album, "Blunt Force Trauma" with a ferocious energy. Igor Cavalera has long been one of my favourite drummers in metal and it's always thrilling to watch him perform live, as he keeps the chaotic rhythm going perfectly, while adding plenty of interesting fills and tricks. His brother Max was also his usual self today, screaming out the crowd to jump around and saying "fuck" more times than Scarface. unlike the last time I saw them, the band tended to focus alot more on their own material tonight, performing only three songs from their previous band, Sepultura, namely "Refuse/Resist," "Territory" and of course "Roots Bloody Roots," which was used as the closing song as one might expect. Although I wasn't very fond of "Inflikted" and haven't been impressed by what I heard from, "Blunt Force Trauma," the songs are much better in a live setting, leading me to believe that perhaps the band aren't just hype after all.
It'd been a great weekend but all good things must come to an end, and they did so next with Iowa's masked sons, Slipknot. The band made it abunduntly clear that they were touring to celebrate the life of bass player Paul Gray, who passed away last year and clutched the audience in the palm of their hands with their mix of pyrotechnics and on stage bedlam. The band's setlist focused alot more on their first three (official) albums with only, "Psychosocial" being performed from their last album, "All Hope Is Gone." While, "Eyeless" went down well, it was mainy songs from, "Iowa" that the crowd seemed to enjoy the most, in particular, "The Heretic Anthem" and "People = Shit," which is also the name of the group's summer tour. The tributes to Gray were many and while heartfelt and I'm sure troublesome for the band, came off as melodramatic, in particular a part where frontman Corey Taylor walked slowly with his head down within the spot light. Nevertheless, it was clearly something that meant alot to the group and I'm sure to the hardcore fans too. It was interesting to see the band performing tonight in their original red boiler suits too, with some members such as Shawn "Clown" Crahan donning their original masks to boot, which I felt worked much better than some of the masks of the "All Hope Is Gone" era. All in all, Slipknot capped the festival off in an excellent fashion, though I felt that ending the event with a band still in mourning was a little strange and thought they'd have been better off headlining the day before or Friday.
And so finished a weekend of amazing bands, thrilling performances, funny moments and great times. Graspop seems to get bigger every year and it's not hard to see why. The organisers do a tremendous job here. They know their metal music and book (for the most part) bands that they know people will want to see and that dedicated metal fans will love. They arrange set times brilliantly, making sure clashes rarely happen for fans of two bands. The performers seem to love playing there and the crowd loves welcoming back old friends, as well as greeting new ones. It's without question the best festival I have ever been to, and like a child after Christmas, I'm saddened that I have to wait another year before it comes again.
You can read about the rest of the festival by clicking on the links below:
Terror - "One With The Underdogs/ Push It Away/ Never Alone"
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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