Today I had to be in time. I wanted to see the first band in Marquee. Taking into account the delay in getting on the Parking Area, the walking to the festival ground and the passing control I needed to leave home early after a short night. Hopefully I could remember a bit better where I left my car at the parking space. Parking in light is OK, finding it back in the dark (almost no lights) is more challenging. For now, this might be an issue tonight.
Anyway I managed all challenges and was in time to see and hear Cellar Darling. The trio (Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter en Ivo Henzi) left Eluveitie to look for their own musical path. With the debut album “This is the Sound” they gave some insight in the direction and sound. Folk was still part of it but it was combined with a crispy but sober rock sound. After a couple of support shows they were able create a fanbase to get them a headliner status for club shows. With the second album “The Spell” they set a new mark. Usually a bassist is part of the line-up on stage, today at GMM a keyboard was added. The set was a good mix of songs of both albums with highlights ‘The Spell’, ‘Insomnia’ and of course ‘Avalanche’. It’s good to see that the band is still growing and was able, so early, to bring the Marque in a very good mood.
With at the background the sound of Gloryhammer (Main Stage 2 – covered at FortaRock), next stop was the Metal Dome. After the show of Jupiter in Baroeg some time ago I had to change my mind about Japanese Metal. Let’s see whether this could be confirmed by Lovebites, an all-female band. Although still early, the tent was quite full. I assume more people we’re curious to see / hear what the ladies would offer. “We are Lovebites and we play heavy metal”. When you see the five ladies dressed in white on stage, you don’t expect metal chicks. But Metal they did. The voice of front woman Asami was more than capable to fill in the vocals to support the power metal they offer. The sound was good, technically high level, high speed and with loads of solo’s. Based on the reactions in the tent, the show was appreciated. For me, nice to see but after a couple songs they couldn’t keep my attention.
My next choice maybe explains the previous remark. Quickly back to Marquee for Ne Obliviscaris. I know, I covered them at FortaRock too. The big difference, there they played in bright sunlight now in the dark Marquee. And yes, that’s a big difference in experiencing their music. The progressive death/black metal is particularly ingenious and it is in itself quite hard to reproduce it at a festival. However, a compliment to GMM. The sound conditions in the Marquee were excellent. A strong opening with ‘Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes’ and immediately you know it will be great. The grunts, screams and clean vocals go hand in hand, speedy riffs and the violin fits wonderful together. A highlight was ‘Intra Venus’, which, with its acoustic, soft beginning, culminated in a controlled passionate storm, and then gently landed again. After ‘Libera (Part I): Saturnine Spheres’ it was time for the last (4th) piece of music. ‘And plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope’ has become a semi-classic and was an excellent closing of the set. If you translate the Latin band name Ne Obliviscaris, you get Do not forget me. The ones that were present, definitely will not forget. The absent probably missed one of the best shows of GMM 2019.
After a break it was time for Halestorm on Main Stage 2. After their good performance in 2016, it was actually waiting for Lzzy Hale and her others of Halestorm to be back at Graspop. With ‘Killing Ourselves To Live’ the setting was made from the first minute. The raw hoarse voice of Lzzy conquered the well filled grounds in front of the stage. The playlist was a nice mix from the four albums. Others songs from their latest release “Vicious”; ‘Do Not Disturb’, ‘Uncomfortable’. As well as classics like ‘Love Bites ((So Do I)’ and the popular ‘Freak like Me’. And the new single ‘Chemicals’ specially released for Record Store Day. Focus was clearly on Lzzy Hale herself. Already at the third song, everyone went off the stage, where she sang the first part of ‘Familiar taste of Poison’ a capella, immediately followed by ‘Amen’ and topped off with a long guitar solo. Part of the show is the presence of drummer (and brother of Lzzy) Arejay Hale. His performance is a show in itself. They closed with ‘I Miss The Misery’ and a primal scream of front woman Lzzy. With this performance and the goodbye of some of the ‘old boys’, they will be back and maybe a bit higher on the bill.
Graspop is also meeting place for people with the same music preference or even life-style. Socializing is part of the fun of going to a festival. That made, although intended, Behemoth (Main Stage 1 – covered at FortaRock) was missed. With Behemoth at the background, it was nice to catch up with some friends that joined this event. Also a good excuse to enjoy the festival as well.
Time to do some ‘work’ again, back to Main stage 1. The same stage where Guns N ‘ Roses finished last year, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators made their appearance. During the intro of B-movie, the band hit the stage and started with ‘Call of The Wild’, opener of the latest album “Living The Dream”, followed by two songs of “Apocalyptic Love”; ‘Halo’ and ‘Standing In The Sun’. Slash played mainly the cherry color Gibson Les Paul. Although Myles Kennedy is a real front man, today he was a bit too relaxed. After an intermezzo with ‘Back From Cali’ from the first “Slash” album, back to promotion of the latest one. I understand, it was warm but and playing with your faces in the sun is not the best, but all in all it very lethargic. With so many things on your plate, a reason to leave. It seemed, later they realized they should do better.
Definitely a better performance of Godsmack at Main Stage 2. Singer / guitarist Sully Erna and company co were in top shape and impressed with songs like ‘1000hp’, ‘Say My Name’, ‘Awake’ and ‘Bulletproof’ They opened with ‘When Legends Rise’ from the latest album with the same title. Most memorable was the drum battle; Dummer Larkin’s drum unit moved around on stage while he was doing his thing, joined by Sully Erna behind a second movable drum set and the two came in front of the podium to face each other. Great to see and hear, also fun the throwing of drum sticks over and over. Then back to the regular show and they closed a good show with ‘I Stand Alone’.
The long day demands its toll. The show of Disturbed is tracked in fragments. Two things that came back when writing were ‘Prayer’ and ‘Hold On To Memories’. At the powerful song ‘Prayer’, literally thousands of fists in the air, but especially the experiment that Draiman wanted to try out. Everyone had to raise his hand when asked if you ever had a hard time with an addiction. “Nobody judges here on Graspop, everyone is honest” Draiman said. Later with acoustic ‘Hold On To Memories’ loads of lighted phones an lighters went in the air. With Indestructable’ and ‘Inside The Fire’ the emotional moment was turned into a more energetic situation. Under the tones of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ a moved to Metal Dome to get a good spot.
During the breaks you meet some people and then they try to convince you to visit a band later. This time Isaac Delahaye (Epica), Dianne van Giersbergen (Ex Libris, ex Xandria) and Joost van den Broek (Producer, Ayreon, ex After Forever) convinced me to pay attention to Demons & Wizards. Joost was a bit biased, he played keys there. However, it was a very good decision. This band (named after the classic Uriah Heep album from 1972) is a collaboration between Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian and Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth. After two albums the project was on hold due to the activities with main bands. On track again in 2017 and now on tour with presence at Graspop, Hellfest and Wacken. And in 2020 a new album. As it was before the closing act, it might be that quite some people prefrerred to try to find a better place in front of Main Stage 1. Metal Dome was not that crowded but the ones that were not there missed a great show. The show was opened with ‘Chant’ and continued with ‘Poor Man’s Crusade’. Jon Schaffer had a different look with the black shirt and no bandana. Fitting pretty well with the ordinary house father look of Hansi Kürsch. Both played earlier at GMM with the main bands but now for the first time with Demons & Wizards. “But we are not here for our glorifying presence but for our great music”, Hansi said when mentioning this . And great music we got. The blend of the Iced Earth power riffs of and Blind Guardian’s melodic fantasy elements of, sounds like excellent melodic death metal. Not sure about all the songs, but one of them was ‘Crimson King’ from the 2nd album “Touched by the Crimson King“. Inevitable that there wouldn’t be main band covers. From Iced Earth they played ‘I Died for You’ and from Blind Guardian the song ‘Valhalla’. Demons & Wizards closed with ‘Fiddler on the Green’. Hansi Kürsch announced that they will come back to Belgium soon.
The downside of visiting a band in Marquee or Metal Dome just before the headliner is that you can’t get a good spot for the headliner nearby. Got stuck quite a bit in the field as it seems the most crowded moment of the weekend. So I did see Slipknot from a distance and with that missed quite a bid of the visuals they use. With intro ‘For Those About to Rock’ (AC/DC) the fun started. With a devastating trio ‘People = Shitty’, ‘(sic)’ and ‘Get This’, the band opened fiery and that wouldn’t stop the next one and a half hour. The musicians played extremely tight and powerful. From a distance you could identify the living visuals. The stage setup was in levels; downstairs Corey Taylor and the guitarists, mid-level the drummer, upstairs the barrel clowns. Unfortunately you missed the details of the performance of these clown, their leaps, antics, funny faces and what that an important part of the show. The big video screens tried to fill that gap, but it was an impossible task. The setlist reads like a balanced Best Of Slipknot and song after song, the grounds were conquered. The in the meantime well known exercise with ‘Spit it Out’ was part of the show. Guided by Corey “When I tell you to jump the fuck up, what you gonna Do?”, most of the crowd obeyed and jumped up at the right time with shouting “Jump The Fuck Up!”. Based on the reaction of the visitors, and 8th appearance on the bill will not be a surprise. Quite late (1:30am) the second day ended and with a smile on the face we could go home and prepare for day 3.