Hard Rock Laager 2015 - Vana-Vigala, Estonia, 03-04.07.2015

Event: Hard Rock Laager 2015
Written by: Ivor
Published: 13.07.2015


Hard Rock Laager 2015 - Vana-Vigala, Estonia, 04.07.2015 by Ivor (140)
Hard Rock Laager 2015 - Vana-Vigala, Estonia, 03.07.2015 by Ivor (95)

Table of Contents
1. The Festival
2. Friday
3. Saturday
4. Wrap-up

Karl Groom, Threshold

It's been so long since the last time I was at Hard Rock Laager. It's, to put it bluntly, quite embarrassing. When I looked it up, it turned out that I have skipped 6 editions. It's surprisingly 2 less than I initially thought, though. The reasons have varied from Hellfests to conflicting schedules, as well as the lack of interest for any particular line-up, and laziness. In those skipped editions I only really regret missing Trail Of Tears and I didn't intend to repeat this mistake with Threshold. And being there again, it felt like a homecoming.

1. The Festival ^

With Rabarock and Green Chirstmas festivals as well as Rock Summer resurrection attempt over the years flopping like fish on a shore, Hard Rock Laager is still running strong in its 14th edition. It's also the most specialized of these events but that's irrelevant. And while the mainstream public spent their time boozing in the capital at Õllesummer (think beer festival with bands playing), metalheads gathered for similar activities in Vana-Vigala village.

It's one awesome place to hold a festival. It'll take you but a minute to get from the tenting area to either of the stages. It has an ancient cemetery within its premises and the grounds are spread along the shore of a Vigala river where, should you so desire (and you should), you can basically take a swim in the sight of the main stage. Moreover, it's a small event with attendance of a couple of thousand people, which means you can just sit or lie down almost in front of the stage and still see the bands play without anyone blocking your view or without you needing a telescope.

Damian Wilson, Threshold

As far as people go, it's your regular festival-going zoo crowd, as colourful as you can imagine: from dressed-up goth girls, to people running around in their trunks or bath-towels, coming straight out of a hot-tub to see the band play; from a guy leisurely eating a banana during a bloody Shining set to a group of sleeping bag worms jumping around to Candlemass; from a guy sporting textile tattoo sleeves (say what?) to a punk with sunburn as red as his hair. And that's the thing. While there's summer in Estonia (which regretfully at the time of writing and the start of my vacation is 15 degrees with promise of further rain), there's also Summer, that with a capital 'S' - a 3-4 day sprint of stupefyingly beautiful weather that this year's festival managed to catch, burning half the light-avoiding crowd red like crabs in a pot.

When you go to a festival the size of Hellfest, with a broader taste in music you can roughly expect to be occupied most of the time, running between the simultaneously playing stages, checking out all the bands you know and don't know about, looking for something old and as well as for eye-opening discoveries, leaving you barely a moment to refill your drink and grab a bite. At a small festival like Hard Rock Laager you either like and enjoy what's playing on either one of the two stages, or you chill out. Which is just as fine, given the weather.

2. Friday ^

While I managed to catch a glimpse of every band of the 22 present at the festival over the two days, there are far less of those that I was or became interested in. In this regard, Friday started out rather slowly. The opener, Deformation, with their hardcore wasn't my kind of thing. The following one-man experimental black metal project Odota was also a miss-hit, albeit somewhat entertaining to watch considering how one person can manage to create all of these sounds on his own.

Having seen Metsatöll some 10 days earlier at Midsummer Night celebrations, I couldn't even fake much interest in their show, despite the fact that the leaders of Estonian folk metal came to the festival to deliver a complete show of their album Hiiekoda, their début effort that brought them unexpected success a long while ago. That success also eventually lead to saturation as I've seen the band way more than I've wanted to or care about, and there's by far not enough variation to go around in their shows. Despite that, they pull a good crowd.

Sven Varkel, Herald

With Paean (or bayan as I heard the friends of the band call them) I had to reaffirm my impression of a couple of months ago that I'd rather take their prog-inclined death as an instrumental act. Wolf brought run-of-the-mill heavy metal with them and amusingly a fire show entered towards the latter part of the gig. It's not a bad move in and of itself but a kind of random event, becoming even more random as the fire show hit the stage with other bands over the course of two days. For me, it still failed to better the average heavy metal being played. I also gave up on the following Alfahanne and their kind of dark and abrasive rock that I just couldn't figure out what to make of.

So, as you see, for me most of the first day came down as a long-winding warm-up to Threshold, taken as it comes, as a pastime without too deep an interest in things on stage. Having seen the band once I knew to expect a fantastic show, especially as Damian Wilson knows how to treat his crowd well and how to get the best out of the show.

There are quite a number of front-men that go into the crowd. "I think the world of them [Threshold] but I want to be out there with you!" With those words and the kick-off of "Mission Profile," Damian came down into the crowd, not just to the photo pit but splitting the crowd down the field and going to the back of it, rocking out with the fans all around him for the duration of the whole song and giving some of them practically a personal serenade; a great moment for some to cherish.

When Damian was later out around the grounds chatting with fans, he commented that up high on the big stage he just couldn't feel the show to have started until he had been down singing with the crowd. I can tell that his charm on the crowd works best in an intimate club atmosphere, though by any meaningful standard the size of Hard Rock Laager is so small that it makes no difference in this regard for the audience. Apparently it does make a difference on the other end of this artist-audience relationship.

Meelis Hainsoo, Kosmikud

Threshold delivered a great set with passion and was definitely what I was looking for. Anything following didn't seem of much relevance after that. While Forgotten Sunrise has obtained a sort of a cult following, their experimental industrial deathbeat is far more than I can stomach. For different reasons, I also hold similar sentiments towards Anaal Nathrakh. Thus Threshold more or less concluded my evening of entertainment and I could spend the rest of it hanging out with people around the grounds.

3. Saturday ^

The second day was to be less of the Friday pattern, but I can't deny that the target was still at the tail end of the day - Candlemass with Mats Levén. Until then there were a couple other things I was looking forward to seeing. First things first, though, everybody had to get up. Sun did its part in driving people out of the heat of their tents and into the lesser heat of the morning, and the morning exercise team put up a jolly Heavy Aerobics session before the first band.

The opener of the day was the local folk rock band called Diskreetse Mango Trio, which is no trio at all. It's been years and years since I last saw them and it was a joy to listen to something easy-going and relaxing for the start of the day. Which is more than I can say about either thrashers Cryptica or tech-death band Beyond The Structure. The Lithuanian mix of black and some post metal in Au-Dessus is something that almost caught my attention in its quieter parts but still went by in general. They did show that hoods seem to be the high fashion at the moment, though.

While I tend to somewhat look down on the simplicity of heavy metal, I found myself enjoying Herald. Them! Of all the bands. Herald whom I've seen a couple of times and haven't really gotten into. Maybe it was the joy of a good day and a chance to lie down in the sun and just listen to the music coming from the stage. Sporting a banner in reminiscent colours of Dio's Holy Diver, this time it all gave off vibes of a proper classic heavy metal gig hitting the right spot. The performance was also a release party for their new album Masin.

The following black metal band Urt confirmed that hoods are the thing to wear in high summer. Other than that, they gave me another moment to roam the grounds until Kosmikud hit the stage. The esteemed local rock band always put on an entertaining show, part of which are the songs with colourful lyrics, and part is somewhat theatrical delivery. It's always very interesting to watch when the band themselves enjoy the gig as it adds another dimension to the show.

The disappointment of the day came in the face of J.M.K.E., the Estonian punk legends playing their first album Külmale maale in it's entirety and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release. I've not seen the band in recent times, but what took place on stage was cardinally different from what I expected and it made me realise that there's a whole generation of musicians getting old, and not all of them necessarily ageing gracefully. What saddened me, really, was that the lead of the band, Villu, has lost his voice, his breath, and just looks like a fat, bearded slob with a hairdo. I felt sorry for him for not being able to get through the set without hyperventilating all the time and taking breathers for a sit-down.

Niklas Kvarforth, Shining

Shining was a band I was both looking and not looking forward to seeing. Music-wise it's not my deal. However, the gruesome image the frontman is sporting, made me more than curious. Let's just say that up close and through the lens there's not much to enjoy. Probably hundreds of old - and tens of - fresh bleeding scars can be seen on Kvarforth's arms, and the man plays the role of utter disgust towards himself and humanity to the fullest. Taking a step aside from the image, though, I found there's more to the band musically than just the disdain. Not enough to care about but enough to have sat through the set on the side.

Having largely skipped the reunion of the Latvian death metal outfit Neglected Fields, I was impatiently waiting for Candlemass, even though the motor of the band Leif Edling himself is taking a leave. I can't claim to be a fan but a couple of his other projects, namely Krux and Avatarium, have struck a chord with me at some point or other, more so because of the vocalists than the music. Back when I saw Candlemass at Hellfest a couple of years ago with Robert Lowe on vocals, I wasn't too impressed. Maybe it's my admiration for Mats Levén's vocal abilities from his Therion and Krux times, but with him at the front, this time Candlemass seemed like a totally different band; more colourful and energized.

For the local crowd, one of the most awaited performances of the festival was that of Aggressor, a one-off show of the '90s death metal band that went through the name and style change to become one of the biggest Estonian industrial acts known as No-Big-Silence. To many, Aggressor represented a period in their youth, to me, it was just a curious glimpse into where No-Big-Silence has its roots. It's definitely got the grooves.

Mats Levén, Candlemass

Finally, two things have got to be said for Caliban, even if I'm not particularly fond of metalcore. First, apparently some airline company fucked up and the band ended up at the festival with none of their gear present. I have huge respect for these Germans for stepping up with loaned gear. It's probably not an easy feat and props for weathering all the mishaps and inconveniences. Second, I feel ashamed that anybody in Estonia would have a low stab at the band and German history. Getting the finger from the band is the least that can be expected of it. Again, props for putting up with it and leaving it behind them, and continuing with the show.

4. Wrap-up ^

I have to say it was utter joy to be present at this year's Hard Rock Laager. As I said in the beginning, it felt like a homecoming. Having skipped 6 years, not much has actually changed around these parts. It's still the same little enjoyable festival that it was before, catering to the same (or similar) crowds. And if the weatherman smiles on our little country, it can turn out to be a pretty good weekend. Here's hoping the next edition will sport something equally nice as Threshold and Candlemass.


PS. Check out more photos in the galleries linked above.


Written on 13.07.2015 by I shoot people.

Sometimes, I also write about it.

And one day I'm going to start a band. We're going to be playing pun-rock.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 69 users
14.07.2015 - 17:34
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Great one, IMO this fest was like forgotten, in old days when ms had .ee domain it was promoted more,
Now hellfest, dutch doom days and other Ned fest, Pagan fest, Wacken ... nobody writes any reviews about it even there was are ms crew attending
Tuska also is not covered anymore
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing

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