After a twelve hour trip through a Germany that was traditionally tormented by road maintenance works, we finally arrived at our destination: the picturesque village of Jaromer, Chech Republic. Situated within the inner walls of the impressive Fortress Josefov, many of its inhabitants had fled the scene of the barbaric invasion that was about to take place by Brutal Assault Festival, whereas the stores had stocked up on ridiculously cheap beer, rum and any other liquor you could think of.
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Day three: Friday August 10th
… Which is also the reason we missed Depresy the next morning. But luckily, Insanity Alert (*****) more than made up for it! These crazy Austrian thrashers always guarantee for a party and this show was no exception. Accompanied by some Nintendo tunes, supreme lunatic Heavy Kevy entered the stage in a sumowrestler fatsuit. Soon, we engaged in the friendliest circle pit ever (basically we were just jogging in circles, holding each other’s shoulders) as someone’s year supply of self-made confetti rained down on us. Musically, it was a high mass of party thrash metal. Lyrically, it’s all about the weed, as illustrated by an enormous styrofoam joint. During Metal Punx Never Die the classic “fuck this shit, lets circle pit” signs were raised again and later thrown into the audience. In fact, stuff being thrown into the audience was pretty much the recurring theme of the show. Fittingly, Heavy Kevy emptied an entire family pack of mac and cheese over the audience during Macaroni Maniac. After mocking us for two minutes because he had a giant inflatable ice cream and we didn’t, he threw that at us too, followed by a shitload of beach balls to cheer up the pit even further. Kevy had the time of his life, and not just because he was without a doubt as high as a kite. We ended the show with the brilliant Confessions Of A Crabman and of course the Iron Maiden parody Run To The Pit, but mostly with Kevy’s friendly reminder: “so when you have to get back to work on Monday and you think life is shit, just remember that I am a fucking toilet cleaner at IKEA!” And we did Kevy, we did…
Another memorable show was the one by Austian post-black metal phenomenon Harakiri For The Sky (****), but not in the best way unfortunately. Being one of my favorite bands, I’ve seen them quite a lot in the past year so I know what their live sound is supposed to sound like. Well, not like this… In the unfortunate absence of their own sound engineer, HFTS depends on local sound guys and apparently, that doesn’t always work out for the best. The harmonies got a bit overshadowed by the overwhelming emphasis on kick drums. To top it off, some Spanish idiot thought it was necessary to hold Insanity Alert’s “fuck this shit” sign up throughout the entire show, blocking the sight of basically everyone. Then again, the setlist was great, featuring Heroin Waltz, Funeral Dreams, Tomb Omnia, Stillborn and way too soon closing track Jhator. Unfortunately, M.S.’s tortured and scarred guitar had the exact same malfunction as it had on Metaldays, thus spoiling the climax of the song and in all honesty the entire show. The artists were visibly bummed out and were still cursing about it when we spoke to them a couple of hours later. No worries guys, it was still a good show and we all had a blast!
We picked up some Nasty (***) to watch the always hilarious phenomenon of violent dancing. As it turns out, Czechs really appreciate this Belgian blend of beatdown and death metal! I don’t really, however, so we went on to catch some food in order to be well in time for At The Gates (***). As usual, the pioneers of melodic death metal left the gloves off and rammed their aggression right through our throats. With a setlist mainly containing songs from the last two albums At War With Reality and To Drink From The Night Itself, I had many flashbacks to Hellfest, with the difference that Tomas and company put in a bit more rock and roll, maybe because they were now playing on the main stage in the open air. Great to see how Tomas always forgets that he’s getting too old for this shit! Maybe his impending marriage with a Belgian girl has something to do with it…
We picked up the last fifteen minutes of the French weirdos of Aluk Todolo (**) at the Oriental stage, but that was all we needed. I can’t find another description than “trippy pling-ploing”. Usually I prefer instrumental music, but in this case, a singer wouldn’t have hurt in order to bring some variety in the lethargic trance. In their defense: if you wanted to get spaced out of your mind, this was the place to be, but after three days of heat and alcohol, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I did however like their lighting concept: the stage was only lit by a big lightbulb pulsating along with the intensity of the music. That was pretty cool to see!
We went back to the Metalgate stage for a band whose name everyone could relate to by this time: Dragged Into Sunlight (****). After an ominous intro of dark ambient soundscapes, these misanthropic Brits unleashed their extreme sludge metal upon the defenseless audience. Varying from doom over black and even death metal infusions, it was the perfect soundtrack to the inhuman screams that came crushing down on us. Unlike Daerrwin earlier, DiS didn’t bother showing the audience more than their backs. No rock and roll here, just music! To make the nightmare complete, a nice stroboscopic effect complemented the ritualistic candles upon the bone-stacked emblem in a furthermore pitch-dark tent. Now that’s what we’re talking about!
Then it was decision time: to Behemoth or to Cruachan (****), that was the question. Since I’ve seen Behemoth a gazillion times and I had recently reviewed the new Cruachan album, I decided to check if the Irish folk bastards dressed in their traditional clan gear – also the only folk metal set of this year’s line-up – could kick it live as well as on record. My first impression was that they sounded way more humppafolky and pagan (think of Svartsot) than I remembered from the album. But no complaints there, it was real fun! We got introduced to the concept of the Jig Pit, which is basically a small cozy and safe moshpit, and clan leader Keith Fay knows how to entice an audience with provocations such as “what’s the matter with ye, are ye soberrrr or are ye drunk?!”. As a result, everyone gladly cheered along on The Harp, The Lion, The Dragon And The Sword. Only bummer is that by the look of the people who showed up, this band is no match for a show machine like Behemoth. At least the people who were there, were there to go all the way!
Unfortunately we had to skip the end of the show because we were really excited about the exclusive Obscure Sphinx (*) show at the Oriental stage, but boy such a disappointment! Not only did it start 25 minutes late (so I could have finished watching Cruachan), but then nobody on the packed square could actually see any of the obscure candle-lit rituals that were performed AT GROUND LEVEL. Musically, it was nothing more than some oozing from subwoofers. Oh well, at least their main show on the first day was alright… We washed it down with some Carpathian violence: the “black and roll” of Carpathian Forest(**1/2) – to which the reactions were very diverse, but we had fun – and the black thrash metal of Malokarpatan (**1/2), which was basically a drunk and weird Ozzy impersonation. But then again we were all drunk and weird by that time.