Heavy Metal Travel Notes: Summerbreeze Open Air, Germany [2015]

 

SBOA

Our trip to Summer Breeze Open Air started on Wednesday morning lugging our bags around in the heat, changing trains and stalking fellow metalheads to ensure we’re on the right route.

We specifically went on this mission to see the Teutonic Thrash Four. The Germans really take their festivals serious. The queue for the official SBOA merchandise was constantly fuck off long. We waited for about 2 hours so I can get my shirt. Dedication and undeniable support from German crowd.

Day one highlights included seeing Death Angel again. They performed a set filled with their newer hits from their latest album “A Dream Calls for Blood” which were absolutely satisfying. I managed to lose Bryan to the moshpit several times, eventually finding him with a cheesy grin and busted lip towards the end of their set. We recovered for a while and waited for Brazilian all female thrashers, Nervosa, to close of the day at 2am the following morning. It was an honour to finally meet Fernanda and see them perform. The girls kicked some serious thrash ass!

Thursday was the big day for us which featured the Teutonic Four. After spending my entire budget at the metal market stocking up on band shirts and patches, we headed off to see Tankard. I’ve always loved them for their fun element and boy did they not disappoint. We managed to get a spot in front slightly off centre. Various 6 packs of beer were already on stage when Gere came running on stage with his glorious beer belly! A fan got onto stage and had the forced opportunity to have his head shoved into said belly. Their set included hit songs including Chemical Invasion, Metal to Metal, The Morning After and Rest in Beer. During one of my personal favourites “A Girl Called Cerveza” I looked behind me to watch out for any crowd surfers, when I turned around, their bassist was right in my face!!! He was running around in front of the crowd, drinking beer with the fans and just going mental. They finished off with Empty Tankard and I can honestly say it was the most entertaining performance of the festival.

Next up was Destruction. We again tried to find a spot near the front but this was a mistake. The crowd surfers would not stop from about the 4th song in and our area was affected most. We eventually moved towards the back to actually watch the band and enjoy the last bit of their set. I really love how all the thrash bands play their own unique brand of thrash. Destruction is different and more evil. You get sucked into the powerful lyrics and can’t help but sing-a-long. Favourites were Thrash ‘til Death, Nailed to the Cross and The Butcher Strikes Back.

Following Destruction was Sodom. Fast paced, old school punk influenced which is close to my thrashing heart, I loved every second of their set. Opening with orange smoke bellowing onto the stage, only one song could be played, Agent Orange. Hubby egged me on to try crowd surfing for the first time in my life. While they played Sodomy & Lust, a spur of energy and guts hit me in the face and I ran towards the back and asked some German boys to lift me up and the crowd carried me to the front. IT WAS FUCKING EXHILARATING! So much that during my favourite and their last song Ausgebombt, that same wave of excitement hit me again and I took on the crowd again. I actually can’t believe I did that.

29
First Crowd Surf Ever!

One thing these three German bands have proved is this: you can sound absolutely great with one guitarist; you can still give a tight and energetic performance with a setup like this. It’s all in your delivery of the songs. One cannot ignore the passion of these bands and criticise their performance in any way.

It was a few hours before Kreator played, so we grabbed some chow – weird deep fried chicken and bread on stick – and more beer to pace us for the performance ahead. Gathering at the stage a good hour and a half before they were due to play, we sat in front of the barrier, holding our sacred spot along with some fellow first time visitors from around the world.

Let me start with the overall show. It was phenomenal and a dream come true for me. Various confetti blasts, pyrotechnics, LCD screens with imagery from their albums and a lighting that matched the drums. The affects enhanced an already flawless performance and sucked you into the songs even more.

They opened with a personal favourite of mine “Enemy of God”. The sheer power and energy of their performance from the first note to the last had me standing still with amusement one second and hypnotised me into a nonstop head banger the next. Again the set varied with old and new songs including Violent Revolution, Phobia, Phantom Antichrist (The album in my top 10 fav thrash albums ever) and Extreme Aggression. During Flood into Fire, another favourite from their latest album, flames shot into the air to a crowd singing along to every single word. The atmosphere at a show like this is very difficult to describe but I can definitely say it’s a once in a lifetime experience and as a metalhead you have to attempt this journey as every second and cent spent is worth it. Hearing those leads live, speaking directly to my heart, is an emotional experience, one which had me in tears at one stage during the set. The intense anger and melodic feel of Kreator’s songs makes them as a big and as great as Slayer in my books.

37
Kreator

After that amazing experience, we missioned to the tented stage for the Death DTA, only to have our socks knocked off even more. This took me completely off guard as I was so focused on the Teutonic Four, and I forgot a little that they would play. Now a lot of people would say, No Chuck, No Death. But honestly, hearing those masterpieces performed to perfection by legends like Gene Hoglan (I saw the motherfucking Atomic Clock, playing his most technical drumming ever!) and Steve DiGiorgio is priceless. The wunderkid on guitar and vocals, did every song perfectly. I closed my eyes during their set, breathing in every single note like air, and getting lost in the beauty of the music touching my soul. Their set included so many greats but when the played Overactive Imagination I had this smile on my face that could not be removed for the rest of the evening.

Late nights, early morning and tonnes of walking in the extreme heat exhausted us but your body kicks into overdrive and gives you not only a second breath but a third and fourth too. We took this day a little easier and WDP managed to get us all access passes to explore the setup of a show this size and have some awesome views from the backstage gallery for 2 bands and access to the VIP area.

The VIP area definitely had its perks, less queues at the bar, food stalls and toilets. And I mean way better toilets and cleaner. More seating and more cover which we were extremely grateful for when a freak thunderstorm hit! The festival was evacuated in full for about an hour until the storm passed.

The first band we watched for the day was Alestorm (before the thunderstorm hit) from the main stage gallery. It was awesome experiencing their set from this view. Damn they had a great and huge crowd. Multiple mini mosh pits, various spots of boat rowing festival goers and a guy with a sign saying “SHOW ME YOUR HAGGIS”. Playing most of their hits, you felt compelled to sing-a-long like a drunken pirate.

Just as Sepultura was about to play, the thunderstorm hit. Their set was delayed for about an hour and we managed to watch them from the main stage gallery once they started. They opened with TROOPS OF DOOM! The crowd was spread out at first, people creeping out their tents after the storm but a few songs in, it exploded into yet another huge crowd moshing along to the thrash legends. They played a good balanced set with old and new songs including Arise, Ratamahatta, The Vatican and Kairos. Derrick Green once again proved what a captivating front man he is and Eloy Casagrande moered that kit with jaw dropping force. There was a dude in a Penis suit crowd surfing during their set! I feel sorry for his friends that had to blow him up.

Powerwolf was our next band to see and the Germans sure do support their own bands with shit tonnes of enthusiasm and patriotism. That vocalist’s opera influenced style always takes my breath away. Their stage presence & performance are amongst the best I’ve ever seen and they had the crowd eating from his hands every second of their performance. So much it looked like he hypnotized them while they chanted along, robotically. For some reason WW2 imagery popped into my head.

Bloodbath gave a good dose of death metal for the day and my eyes was only on one band member, the drummer. Dynamic, technical beyond my comprehension and effortless.

Unfortunately we missed Cradle of Filth who played at 3am the morning due to the storm and our exhaustion was just too much too handle more at this point.
Onto the last day which started with some new wave of thrash metal bands. First up: Pripjat. These youngsters were energetic, owning the small stage with huge smiles on their faces, giving a glimpse into their barefooted souls, relentless in their speed. At this point I thought my neck couldn’t anymore but this band compelled me to lose my shit.
We had a quick look at Greek thrashers Suicidal Angels. Their sound is a mixture of old and new school Metallica, easy listening and a bit underwhelming after Pripjat’s explosive set.

Dust Bolt also played the small stage and I was shocked to see that these seasoned musicians were quite young. To me their sound hints of The Haunted. I have to admit that there was a performance/tightness compromise, not necessarily by the band but perhaps caused by the sound where the main vocals was softer. Nevertheless I got lost in the music and speed, thoroughly enjoying their set.

We had to have our dose of death metal so we headed off to catch a spot in front for Cannibal Corpse, one of my all-time favourites. What I love about them is the no gimmicks/no bullshit approach to performing. Here’s the music, forcing you to headbang or Corpse grinder will kill you. Plain and simple. As hardcore or brutal he may seem, he is a very likable frontman. Their set was relentless from start to finish, not giving you a second to catch your breath or rest your neck. Opening with Scourge of Iron and ending with Hammer Smashed Face, the set was similar to their set at Witchfest earlier this year but on a bigger stage, with bigger sound and a bigger crowd. I can’t make up my mind whether I preferred this or the more intimate setting but one thing is for sure, if Cannibal is playing I will always want to see them. Interesting that at one stage during their set, the Polizei was back stage. We were again victim to some serious crowd surfing during this set but after taking a beating, the festival goers either steered them away, simply letting them drop or throwing them to the front!

Another Witchfest band played up next on the Main Stage. HATEBREED! They played to a mammoth crowd, which a band like them deserve fully. Jamey Jasta’s humble approach to fronting the band is refreshing but don’t let that fool you. As soon as a song starts, he delivers with just as much aggression as any other death and thrash vocalist.
Sick of it all was on the tented stage next with an extremely hyperactive guitarist. It was my first time seeing them and they did not disappoint. Unfortunately by this time my body had taken a huge beating by this stage so we stood in the back.

The last band of our Summer Breeze experience was Venom. A band Bryan has wanted to see for over 25 years! Admittedly I didn’t know their songs that well but quickly got sucked into their rock and roll, and incredible stage show. The drummer was a total show off, doing various hand/stick tricks while he played. This was the perfect band to round off a great few days of metal.

Unfortunately getting a taxi home was a real problem on our last night, stuck in a pour down of note, in a queue of over 50 people waiting for taxis that never came. Eventually we started asking for lifts and a drunken citizen kindly advised us to ask the Polizei for help. And help they sure did by calling us a taxi and providing cover while we wait. How’s THAT for service!

On the practical side of things, Summerbreeze had mostly positives including an awesome variety of food; hardly any clashes of bands; easy access most of the time and a great market. The ability to park your car at your tent seemed convenient for most campers.

5
Dinkelsbuhl

 

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