The 24th edition of Graspop Metal Meeting (GMM), the second time in a row completely sold out. The noisiest herald of Summer is in Dessel (Belgium). Not too far from Dutch border. Bands played in the Marqee (tent), Metal Dome (tent), Jupiler Stage and on two (open) Main Stages. It’s always a helluva party with an overload of band.
It’s difficult to give a full overview with so many bands. As there was just one representative of Metal on Loud, a photographer (with only a field pass) approximately 10 bands per day could been covered. Almost all band photos are from GMM photographers, or taken with a compact camera from a distance. Added are field impressions. The ‘selected’ bands are a mix of MoL followers interest and personal preferences.
Although there was a pre-party on Thursday MoL was present for the first time on Friday. After collecting the wrist band and surviving the traffic jam at the parking area, Main Stage 1 was reached when Eisbrecher played. Eisbrecher is a representative of the Neue Deutsche Härte (New German Heavy) that is leaded by mega-act Rammstein. The music is quite related to Rammstein. However, the lyrics and stage presence make them a little different. They never got that popular outside the German speaking countries (Germany, Switzerland, Austria). The latest album “Sturmfahrt” made it to a first place in the German Charts. They played only ‘Was ist hier los?’ from that album. The set list was an overview of the 7 releases with 3 songs of the 6th album “Schock”. Knowing that the show of Rammstein will be a couple of days later in Rotterdam, the second appearance at GMM of Eisbrecher was a nice warming up for today and the upcoming event.
After getting settled the next stop was again Main Stage 1. Time for great Old Rockers. For me a flashback of my youth, for others a throwback to their dad’s record collection. On stage was Mr. Glenn Hughes, former singer and bassist of Deep Purple. The back drop showed a picture of a very young Glenn. Although, with 67 candles on his birthday cake now, he was still very good vocally. Hughes was part of the Mark III and Mark IV line-up of Deep Purple, and with songs from that period he’s currently touring. He and his musical companions kicked off with ‘Stormbringer’. Soon you get the feeling of a live ‘jukebox’. In a good sense of course, because most people know all these songs. Glenn mentioned in his limited talking he preferred to sing. The classic ‘Smoke on the Water’ in a medley with ‘Georgia on my Mind’, just as they did in his Deep Purple days was part of the set. And ‘Burn’ and ‘Highway Star’ as well. A great walk in memory lane.
Main Stage 2 was more or less the American Trash Metal stage. With two of the ‘Big Four’ later, it was time for Testament, the Primal Bay Area band around singer Chuck Billy and guitarist Eric Peterson. The other guitarist Alex Skolnic was also one of the original members but left in the Nineties and returned in 2005. All of them hit end fifties but the fire is still there. Testament opened with two songs from their most recent album “Brotherhood of the Snake”; the title track and ‘The Pale King’. After that, a nice set of songs from the band’s musical legacy Most of which were, not surprisingly, from the classic “The New Order”. The temperature was not that high as Sunday would, but in front of the stage in the pit it easily reached that level.
Back to Main Stage 1, where it was Architects turn to play. This band knows how to interact with an audience. However, in the broad daylight with a bright sun at a huge field it’s hard to create that same atmosphere as in a (large) venue. It didn’t work out that great. Great songs like ‘Holy Hell’, ‘Royal Beggars’, ‘A Match Made In Heaven’ and ‘Doomsday’ didn’t make the impact as they can do.
On Main Stage 2 time for the next legendary thrash metal band, Anthrax! For those who forgot: Anthrax is part of the mythical ‘ Big Four ‘. At GMM they came to show why. With the well-known bellowing of the siren and ‘Cowboys From Hell’, the band came up. With, no time to breathe, followed by ‘Caught In A Mosh’. Although founded in 1981 the band still does have more than plenty of energy to give the crowd the right vibe. When singer Joey Belladonna asked, what are we all screaming? Indeed, ‘I Am the Law!’ The band skipped the most recent album “For All Kings” completely and customized the setlist to their classic “Among The Living”. After the combo ‘Antisocial’ and ‘Indians’ the band closed as they had started: with a patch of ‘Cowboys From Hell’. A pleasant preparation for the main dish later.
More bands at GMM planned to say Goodbye at Graspop. The American Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd on Main Stage 1 was one of them. Programming / preparing a good time table is a difficult job. The positioning of Lynyrd Skynyrd in between Anthrax and next up Amon Amarth is not the best. Nevertheless, it was a relaxed set. Unfortunately they didn’t start with a big hit, so it took a while to get the crowd singing and dancing. The band was in good shape. The only original band member, guitarist Gary Rossington (67 years old), played with a wide grin. Also singer Johnny Van Zant had fun, and more important he was almost perfect at singing. His Confederate-pride was limited to a small scarf on his microphone. The moment everyone had been waiting for came almost at the end. Everybody joined the band wit ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. With ‘Free Bird’ the show ended. All in all a nice interlude between the heavy stuff tonight.
The pre-headliner on Main Stage 2 today were Swedish Vikings of Amon Amarth. This band is quite popular with us, Gauls. Live, they never disappoint. The stage setup seemed to be similar to the headliner show at FortaRock, the Drumriser was a gigantic Viking helmet. Because of FortaRock I decided to use the opportunity to take a look at Marquee to see Eagles of Death Metal. An unusual band, for sure here at GMM despite the name, with the soft rock they play. Also a band with a history. With the two main stages fully operational continuously, people in the Marquee are there to look and listen to a band. However, it’s not always everybody’s cup of tea. The same for me, so back to Amon Amarth from the viewpoint of Main Stage 1 to have a good position for the headliner up there later. They definitely wanted to keep the people warm taking into account the pyro. With ‘Raven’s Flight’ it was a little too enthusiastic. Some pyro popped just a little too high and too hard. For minutes, dark smoke came from under the roof of Main Stage 2. Fortunately the roof could handle it. At a little pause large runes of characters were set on fire for ‘Guardians of Asgard’. Later singer Johan Hegg invited us all for a taste of salvation in honor of the Vikings. Of course, the man’s Horn was an extra-ordinary size. The drinking horns and devil horns were massively levied during ‘Raise Your Horns’. The party ended with ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’, including the over-the-top Thor’s hammer, a gigantic, moving sea monster and a pyro curtain.
You could fear a little for the headliner position given to Within Temptation. Could this band be that successful? Despite quite a lot of people especially came for them it was not that crowded in front of the stage. Definitely not as many as with previous headliners (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or even Parkway Drive). Nevertheless, the band gave a very good, great show that started with ‘Raise Your Banner’. Singer Sharon Den Adel entered the stage in white mantle and waving a large white flag, fitting the theme of the new “Resist” album. It was followed up with ‘The Reckoning’ from that album. All hits passed: ‘In the Middle of the Night’, ‘Stand My Ground’ and ‘Angels’. An unexpected acoustic version of ‘Ice Queen’ was most likely intended to be a resting moment. However it took a while to get back on track. With ‘What Have You Done’ and ‘Mother Earth’ the show came to a smashing end, The pyro, smoke and large video screens made it also a visual attractive show. Seven times before on Graspop (the first time already in 1998!) and this year the eighth appearance as co-headliner. Sharon sang as an angel and showed to be an extremely capable front woman. The band was in shape, and played with an amazing precision. However the contrast with the other bands was to big, and a feeling they were not at the right place stayed.
How big could be the difference. From one and a half hour symphonic metal to one and a half hour thrash metal. Nothing is forever. Not even Slayer. The icons of the American Thrash metal played a tenth and last time on Graspop. It became a farewell through the Great Gate. Slayer played tight, furious and with precision. And with a lot of fire, a whole lot of fire. The music spoke for itself, Slayer showed why they belong to the ‘Big Four’. For one and a half hour great songs like ‘Evil Has No Boundaries’, ‘World Painted Blood’ and ‘Postmortem’ came along without a break. Singer Tom Araya saw all was good. Limited dynamics on stage, they just move on a few meters left or right or just down the knees for a guitar solo, that’s all. Araya lets the audience move. Not much talking, focus was on the music.
But 1.5 hours Slayer is challenging. The perception of monotony might get in, but songs like ‘Payback’, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ and ‘South Of Heaven’ get you back. And then their first gigantic hit: ‘Raining Blood’. The encore consisted of ‘Black Magic’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’ and ended for the last time with ‘Angel Of Death’. The band left the stage and some minutes later, just Araya came back. After a silence he thanked the public, an emotional moment, pure and straight from the heart. Respect, SLAYER!