As I had always heard good things about Summer Breeze and occasionally found myself drooling over their lineups, I finally stumbled my way to Dinkelsbühl to see the festival for myself. As we were driving down smaller and smaller roads next to the cornfields, my initial thought was that this festival was in a very remote place. This turned out to be a good thing though, as being out in the wild allows for louder music.
Coming from Norway, we took Breeze’s shuttle bus from Nürnberg Airport. This was a very nice offer for us international guests that didn’t drive our own cars. The queue to get in was long, as the staff was roughly checking all baggage you brought into the camp. From there we needed to find a place to put up our tent, and this was pretty much a free-for-all arrangement where the first arrivers would get the closest spots to the stage area. While the camping area was very large and had a lot of space, we had to camp up with a bit of a walking distance to the stage area since we arrived late on Wednesday. I didn’t personally see this as a problem, since us Norwegians are used to hiking on ridiculous mountains anyway.
The camp was nice, and so were the people living around us. I noticed an amount of campers having trouble with cars driving on the gravel road next to their tents. As it was very dry, the dust was covering everything. Also, for future campers I would recommend living a reasonable distance away from the toilets, due to the unholy smell around them.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you are afraid of mice, you might have a problem with certain areas of the Breeze camp. While fairly cute to look at, the little bastards love to run around scavenging for food, and one mouse actually ate its way through the bottom of our tent. But as I always say; I never go to a festival without duct tape.
I liked the food on this festival. You could buy hamburgers, pizza, Asian food, steak dinners, Dutch style fries, sausages, burritos, chicken, and much more. Although I like to eat as much meat as possible, I was also witness to a few vegetarians surviving Summer Breeze.
The toilets were, well, festival toilets. You had the standard non-water toilets that over time turned into the reincarnation of hell, and you had some water toilets that were cleaner and more satisfying. As the heat was unbearable at times, the showers came in handy. They were better than most showers I had seen in festivals, as they had warm water and were kept clean enough. The only issue was that you had to stay in queue for about 40 minutes to use them, but that’s to be expected.
The selection of different beverages was nice. You could drink beer, or get a refreshing cocktail with ice when it was warm. I had to tell them to go easy on the wasps while making my drinks, because they were basically overrunning the place during daytime. Also, if you ask for “water” over there, you get water with bubbles. I searched a lot for water without bubbles, but amazingly this was hard to get. I enjoyed the nice little touch they made on the drinking glasses. The term “Gotta catch em’ all” came to mind, as there were glasses from every Breeze year dating back to 2006, with band names and different designs printed on them. Seeing as you paid a couple extra euros for them, people were collecting them and handing them in for money, making the festival a much cleaner place.
With Breeze being a metal festival and all, most of the day was obviously spent watching concerts. I tried to see as much as possible, but since even the most badass of metalheads need their food and drink from time to time, I couldn’t cover them all.
First of all, as a sound engineer myself; I’d like to say that the sound on nearly all the concerts was very satisfying. There were 4 stages, called the Main stage, T(tent)-stage, Pain stage and Camel stage. I was surprised about the amazingly loud volume from the Camel stage, even though it was so small.
As me and my group arrived at the festival site late in the afternoon and had to set up camp, we did not get to see most of the bands playing today. I did see some of Deserted Fear, which is a German death metal band seemingly influenced by the old Swedish scene. They had the retro entombed-sound going and it sounded pretty good live, but the songs were a bit too generic and lacked the killer riffs you need to stand out when playing this style of death metal in today’s crowded scene.
The first band I got to see today was the German electronic metal band called Megaherz. Sporting suits and black and white facepaint, these guys delivered an excellent show. I particularly liked the guitarist with the face paint that looked like an X. Apart from the slightly more techno-sounding synths, they pretty much seemed to be a clone of their fellow countrymen Rammstein, a band which was actually formed one year later. The vocalist worked the crowd pretty well and the band played some catchy songs like “Jagdzeit” and some melodic ones like “Himmelsstürmer”. I enjoyed this concert, as it was both entertaining and nice to listen to.
Breeze had a lot of German bands, especially during daytime. The next band I saw this day was Die Apokaplyptischen Reiter. The style was melodic folk/death metal. The most noticeable thing about them was the vocalist, who had an impressive vocal range, from Whiskey-low to Dickinson-high. The music was too melodic and epic for my taste, but it looked like the German part of the crowd in particular had a good time.
Sodom, one of the German thrash scene’s big four, played on the Pain stage today. They had a good set of classic songs, like “Remember the Fallen”, “Napalm in the Morning” and “Ausgebombt”. The guitars could have been higher in the mix though, as they were a bit hard to hear, at least from where I was standing. Sound issues aside, the concert was good in its entirety.
Opeth was one of the bands I just had to see, and even though I had never been a big fan of them before (don’t shoot me, please), I was positively surprised by their performance. I’m a fan of Mikael Åkerfeldt though, especially from his time in Bloodbath. His voice didn’t disappoint this time either, and Opeth delivered an amazingly good show. Even during the most complex time signature changes, all the instruments played together without a single mistake. There wasn’t exactly a small amount of people watching, and the Opeth fans I talked to really seemed to enjoy the concert from start to finish.
On the T-stage, which was an enormous tent easily recognizable from a distance, Eisregen was playing their own take on black metal. A memorable experience, even though we watched it mostly for the humor of it. They had several songs featuring the word “panzer”, like “Gott der Panzer” and “Panzerschokolade” (which was in my opinion the most memorable one). On the outside of T-stage there was a large screen where it was possible to sit down on the grass and enjoy a cold beer while watching the show, filmed professionally with different cameras. During Eisregen this is what I did, and it was a relaxing way to enjoy the concert without having to mind the crowds.
Agalloch played well, and delivered the huge sounding reverberated atmosphere you would expect from a post-black band. The sound was a bit more modern than on their albums, probably because they had to use the equipment already on stage. I thought they could be better at interacting with the audience, and most of the time it seemed like they just wanted to stand completely still and be left alone in their corners. But even though they didn’t seem like an experienced live-band, they knew how to play their songs, and managed to drag me into their mesmerizing sounds.
Death to All was the second to last act in the tent on Thursday. Featuring old members of Death, like the legendary Gene Hoglan on drums. Starting with a song from “Individual Thought Patterns”, they played a set of classic Death songs with at least one song from each album. Some of these songs were “Symbolic”, “Zombie Ritual”, “Suicide Machine” and “Crystal Mountain”. Seeing Death performing live with a modern guitar tone and overall massive sound was a blast, and truly a highlight of the festival on my part. The vocalist actually sounded a lot like Chuck Schuldiner, and the guitar sound was just clear enough so you could hear what a great performance these guys did.
Friday was an interesting day on the festival, as nature literally seemed prepared to blow us away just as much as any of the bands playing. More on that later.
We started out this day of the festival with a nice groovy retro-rock band that goes by the misleading name Kadavar. It was a nice change of pace, and a big contrast to most of the other bands playing. Kadavar plays stoner-rock, 70’s style, and they had a good energetic performance in the sun this early Friday afternoon. They seemed to have a lot of fun on stage and so the audience seemed to have a good time watching them as well.
Later in the afternoon, there was an announcement on the big screens around the festval area regarding a storm that was approaching. People were advised to go secure their tents and help each other in the process. Since there was only a faint wind and some dark clouds overhead, it really didn’t seem like that big a deal at first. We decided to walk back to the tents anyway, just to be sure. A short time later, it looked like the moment before the climax in the Ghostbusters movie, where all the dark energy spirals around in the night sky above the city as evil is about to be let loose. The wind and rain started abruptly, and for a moment it actually seemed like it could have lifted our tent off the ground had it not been secured properly. All concerts were delayed one hour as visitors and festival crew were securing loose objects and making sure everything was safe. About half an hour after the wind started, there was an air-raid- style alarm sounding, but whatever meaning that had, it was a tad late to be of any use.
The storm stopped almost as abruptly as it had started, and the concerts started up again like planned.
Because of the storm, I unfortunately didn’t get back in time for Sepultura. I did on the other hand see Combichrist on the T-Stage. I was uncertain if this was going to be a good concert, judging by rumors and Youtube videos I had watched earlier. This turned out to be misguided worries, as Combichrist performed very well. Andy LaPlegua started the concert with “We Were Made to Love You”, wearing a sci-fi looking mask with red lights. It took about 2 minutes before me and the audience was shouting along with the lyrics. The energy didn’t drop from there, and during songs like “Can’t Control“ and “Maggots at the Party”, the crowd reciprocated by throwing beach balls around while dancing in silly costumes. It was like an “in-door beach-volley metal rave-party”. Try saying that many times fast. Songs from older albums were played as well, but I was disappointed that they didn’t play “Throat Full of Glass”.
Bloodbath did a great gig as well, with Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost behind the microphone. With the strong new album “Grand Morbid Funeral” out, they had a lot of good live material to choose from. Although I was skeptical at first to Nick’s vocals for the older albums like “Nightmares made Flesh”, his long throaty growls sounded pretty damn intense and didn’t let the audience down. Of course they also performed their hit song “Eaten”, with the guitarist supplying some deep growls for the refrain. Bloodbath delivered, but who would have suspected otherwise?
Be’lakor was the first band I saw on Saturday. Being a fan of melo-death, I thought I would check out this band, seeing as many of my friends were talking about it. First and foremost, I really enjoyed their heavy and rhythmical parts, mixed with nice melodies on top. George Kosmas looked large and brutal on stage, and had a massive voice that fit his appearance. The band seemed to enjoy playing together as well, and I always appreciate concerts when the band looks like they are having fun. The music itself was maybe a bit too repetitive for my taste, and the band seemed to really love their guitar tapping. Personal taste aside, the sound was very good, and I will see them again if they ever show up on a future running order.
The Canadian death metal veterans in Kataklysm also made a good impression on the main stage. With most of us already severely weakened by the burning rays of the sun, their thick modern death metal guitar tone knocked us to the ground. Among the highlights was the heavy and yet so catchy song “As I Slither” from the 2004 album “Serenity in Fire”, and the finisher “Crippled and Broken“ from “In the Arms of Devastation”.
Next up on the main stage were the British Doomsters in Paradise Lost. After the Bloodbath gig the day before, I was expecting they would play mostly old songs or at least material where the growling vocal style was most prominent. But apart from a few fan favorites like “As I Die” and “Gothic”, they mainly did a mid-period, clean vocal set. Holmes seemed to be struggling more with the clean singing than he had done with the growling on Friday, and his performance unfortunately did not make them look good. At the end of one song with mostly clean vocal parts, Holmes did a long death rattle growl, then apologizing afterwards, with: “Sorry, for a moment I thought I was in Bloodbath”.
A good concert on the T-stage this day was the American duo of Inquisition. Even though I never liked their studio material, this gig was surprisingly good. The lack of a bass player and a second guitarist seemed to not affect the band at all even in a live setting. A hypnotic and intense gig, with Dagons guitar sound filling up the tent, despite its size. Good use of lighting that enhanced the atmosphere, and a tight performance from the band made the whole thing seem very professional and without any nonsense. The band finished with the song “Infinite Interstellar Genocide”.
Ghost Brigade was the last band I got to see that day, and even though they played lots of good songs like “Clawmaster”, “My Heart is a Tomb” and a few songs from their newest album “One With the Storm”, they didn’t quite deliver as well as I expected. Their melancholic doom/death sounds had really made an impression on me while listening to their studio albums throughout the years, but I didn’t quite feel they performed well on Breeze. The drummer seemed to have some issues with keeping up with the other players at times, and Manne Ikonen seemed like he was off his game with the singing from time to time. Ikonen still manages to entertain, as he does this unique “drugged zombie-dance” on stage. I noticed that the sound guy didn’t always seem to know the songs, and did a lot of mistakes that made the vocals and solo guitars inaudible. But even with a few hiccups, Ghost Brigade still seemed heavy, enthusiastic, and managed to drag me into their sound. I had to smile in the end where Ikonen, with his dark and slightly chilling voice, said something like “This song is in Finnish, but I think you all know it. Sing along, please”.
And so Summer Breeze 2015 was finished for my part. The festival wasn’t as international as I would have expected, but on the other hand I got to meet lots of crazy Germans, most of them very friendly and forthcoming people. Good sounding bands and good tasting food and beverages all spread across a field in rural Germany. I was surprised at how few problems there were during the concerts. The big screens showing live footage from the concerts made it easier for those not wanting to push through crowds to see the bands, and all the various festival workers and security staff were always nearby making sure everything went smoothly and without any unnecessary problems or injuries. Will I go to Summer Breeze again? Maybe not 13 times like a guy I spoke to, but yeah, I believe I will go there again at some point.
by Robert Sandnes, photos by: Yohan Thibault