|For 3 days the temperature in Hell dropped by a few degrees apparently
It was back in December 2009 when, still left with a bitter taste in my mouth after the unexpected and thoroughly disappointing cancellations of quite a few bands' concerts and festivals in my own Carpatho-Danubiano-Ponthic space in that not-so-metal-year I saw a news article on a famed Romanian metal webzine. Apparently some of the Sonisphere Festival 2010 dates had been announced, and I was filled with disbelief and some strange excitement (or in the classic Romanian style, the only 3 words I could say were "ce pula mea?!"). I entered the link and indeed saw on the page www.sonispherefestivals.com that, among other "metal" towns listed with a Sonisphere Festival date like Stockholm and Helsinki, Bucharest was present with a whole 3-day festival in the same time as Istanbul. Even more than that, the bill on the Czech, Swiss and Polish dates was incredible, with the Big 4 of American Thrash Metal poised to take Warsaw, Jonschwil and Prague by storm, and for the August dates the likes of Maiden, Alice Cooper and Motley Crue were on the list.
For all but the Balkan dates (in chronological order- Sofia, Athens, Bucharest/Istanbul) some (if not all) of the bands had already been announced already, and the websites for the Balkan fest dates weren't working (for example, seeing as fi.sonispherefestivals.com redirected to the Finland fest website,
a certain computer nerd with nothing else to do saw that the bg.sonispherefestivals.com address showed as a 404 Error).
With the experience of quite a few cancellations in 2009 not a few were the metalheads around the Romanian web space who cocked their virtual eyebrow, joking around that this would get canceled, too, and we'd all have to move to a certain village in the north-side of Germany or a town in west France if we actually wanted to see large-scale metal fests in our own town.
Well, I thought to myself "time will tell," so I waited, and in January or so we got our first teaser with Slayer being announced and also we all had a vague idea of where the fest would take place.
Two more months passed, with every other Balkan date being announced with the Big FFFFFUUUUing Guns being pulled out for the Sofia date in the likes of Rammstein, Manowar, Volbeat and of course The Big 4. Still there was absolutely nothing on our fest except for Slayer taking the date off their website (which prompted another, equally filled-with-disbelief "ce pula mea?"). Naturally I was very anxious to see what would happen with our festival date.. will it get canceled? Will there be another typically Balkanic over the top drama? Will the bands get ripped off and never tour in Romania again?
To put it simply, FUCK NO!
We all waited and waited, and then, finally, on the 15th of March, the final confirmation of the very last Sonisphere date to be confirmed was... confirmed. Manowar and Volbeat on the first day, the Big 4 and Heaven And Hell on the second day, with Rammstein, Stone Sour, Mastodon and Alice In Chains on the last day. My face instantly turned into this:
No caption necessary.. oh wait shit.
So, tickets were announced, and everything seemed was going to go smoothly with the fest taking place in the Romexpo Parking Lot, a huge open space perfect for large-scale concerts. After a painful blow to the world of music in the sudden death of one of the most influential and best rock/metal vocalists to ever live, and Mastodon canceling their festival appearances, the organizers vowed to add some other bands to the bill as replacements.
A few more weeks go by and then, just 3 weeks before the festival, in the light of political bullshit preventing Orphaned Land to play at Sonisphere Turkey, they get announced to play at our festival date instead. Did I forget something?.. oh yeah, them, and also Paradise Lost, Anathema, local rockers Vita de Vie and Luna Amara, and (by far the biggest surprise for me) the German classic 80s metal band Accept. I remember I was working 9 hours on that day but I smiled so hard all day after I took a break and called my friend who went on the web and I asked him if anything was announced regarding the fest. The complete line-up was this:
Vita de Vie
Alice In Chains
So, with a bunch of bands so awesome that small animals could violently explode simply by listing them in their presence, we were all set. The big question for the first day remained though: who would headline- Manowar or Accept? Accept are a much older band, but then again Manowar is far more popular. Just a week or so before the start, Accept was finally announced as being the headliner on the first day (they even ended up playing for almost exactly 2 hours, more than any other band on the whole fest). This was much to the disgust of the Manofanatics who cannot possibly accept (pun intended) that some other band plays more than their heroes, and if they in fact bought the ticket beforehand thinking Manowar would headline I do understand their frustration, but even so the whine-meter was off the fucking scales.
You might ask why this introduction is taking so long, this is because this fest is a piece of metal history for us here in the land beyond the forest. It was the FIRST large-scale metal festival to take place in Romania, so that is why I insist on the "before the storm" part.
I got myself a Golden Circle ticket in order to see the bands up front without getting pushed from all sides near the barrier of the Normal Circle category like during some unfortunate 5 minutes at the AC/DC concert back in May. It was quite a bit more expensive but boy I did not regret it. But enough bullshit, let's start with the festival review.
The First Day
The festival site was a typical "city festival": concrete on the ground, a huge stage with equally huge speakers and screens on both sides of the stage showing videos of bands in the Sonisphere festival lineups, lots of beer, (overpriced) whiskey and barbecue tents, shitty toilets and tons of insane people ready for a good few hours of metal music. I would like to commend the organizers for having a Green Tent, where you could return used glasses in exchange for a beer voucher (15 glasses returned = 1 beer), they proved most convenient on the last day when I didn't have any more money. The regular beer was good (it's Tuborg after all), and the traditional little mincemeat barbecue product named "Mici" made on the spot was also good although kinda overpriced.
The Sons of The Three
With ominous clouds covering the sky and a few thousand people praying to Elohim (or Thor, whatever) to keep the rain at bay, Orphaned Land took the stage and I arrived just as they started their show. With their middle-eastern influenced groovy metal and their Jesus-lookalike vocalist they were an instant hit with the comparatively few people who came to see them, though I'm sure it was one of OL's - yes K7 I know what it means for French football fans - biggest audiences they ever had. From drunk guys belly-dancing Arabian style to clapping, chanting and singing along especially during the song Kiss Of Babylon, the Israelis were a real treat to watch and listen to. The sound was pretty good, the drummer was pretty tight and the band seemed to genuinely have fun on the stage, transmitting this mood to the audience. Excellent live band.
Faith Divides Us, Metal Unites Us
Paradise Lost were up next, and with a very heavy bassy sound they were the first band with sound problems. The instruments sounded good, but the vocals unfortunately were a bit too low in the mix and with the vocalist being on one of his poorer days, it was a mixed bag. Didn't stay to watch all of their show, they didn't really catch my interest aside from 2-3 songs like the godly "Erased" and a surprise in the form of the song "As I Die" from one of their earlier albums, but at least they seemed pleased to be able to play here after their cancellation of a show in Cluj-Napoca back in the Spring.
Dance all people, I hold the gun!!
Volbeat went on next, and apart from a certain other band on the bill who played later they were probably met with the biggest skepticism. "Cine pula mea sunt ăştia?" was by far the most widely asked question on the festival grounds on that day. I can safely bet that 99% of the people who came there had no idea what Volbeat played, let alone know 1-2 songs from them, they were by far the least-known band of the festival for the Wallachian audience. Had it been any other band instead of them would have been an enormous risk taken by the organizers, but the Danes simply walked on stage and through their music won over the audience who was headbanging, dancing and shaking their asses like crazy through one hour of groovy rock-n-roll with metal instrumentation.
They started with the boogie-woogie rocker "The Human Instrument" and then after barely a breather went straight into "Radio Girl." Just these 2 songs were more than enough to show the skeptics what Volbeat is actually about: fun, partying, rock n' roll. They went through all their essential material with some hilarious moments like a 3-second "Cannibal Corpse cover song," a nod to Johnny Cash, and as always lots of interaction with the audience by one of the better frontmen out there, Michael Poulsen. The sound was good but the bass drums could have been turned down a bit.
It would have made for a great show if not for one thing- the rain. I managed to bear it for 40 minutes or so of their show, but then it became simply too much and after they played the title track from their latest album I had to go eat something and watched them from afar playing their last two songs, "The Garden's Tale" which featured their bassist on vocals for the Danish lyrics, a short nod to Slayer, and "Still Counting." By the end everyone was on fire and probably would have wanted to see more of this band, but alas it was time for true metal bonanza.
Outcasts on the Path of No Return
So I had to get myself an incredibly gay pink rain poncho (don't ask) if I wanted to survive the rain, not the truest color to be dressed in when seeing Manowar but hey I had no choice. Surprisingly, they played mostly classic material, and unsurprisingly they sounded kinda bad. They opened the series of bands who had impossibly over-amplified bass drums (culminating with a certain Bay Area band which would play tomorrow), so even though I know their whole catalog backwards it still took me a good half a minute to realize what the hell they were playing at times.
After the first few songs it was time for the usual mumbo-jumbo... Joey's speech in Romanian was far shorter than the one he did at the concert last year, but it was still pretty funny and entertaining. After that Joey came back on stage and threw some promo merch for his Dio tribute (because apparently, to quote the man himself, "the fuckers at Sonisphere wouldn't let us sell our Dio tribute!!") and then came a disgracefully half-assed cover of Heaven and Hell of which I will say no more. They did pleasantly surprise me though by being more focused and their show being more concentrated on the music than the last time I saw them (but that isn't saying much sadly).
At least the setlist was surprisingly good though, containing material from earlier albums, Warriors of the World and also the title track from their last EP. They ended with one of my favorites by them, "Black Wind Fire and Steel," during which even though I barely understood the song amid the double bass bombardment, I still sang along like crazy. All in all I'm sorry to say though, it was a mediocre performance. They had the opportunity to show everyone that they deserved to headline and do whatever the fuck they wanted, but instead they chose to do a cover song that was textbook half-assedness, play with a shit sound, and generally not focus on the music. A general disappointment, I'm pretty sure if I don't have money to throw around I'll just avoid them the next time they stop around here.
The Midnight Movers
...Well not quite midnight as they started around 21:00. After a soundcheck that lasted for 45 minutes (was it worth it? read on..) the sun setting behind the thick clouds and German roadies invading the stage, the lights suddenly went down, smoke oozed through the stage and the unmistakable intro of the 80s metal song "Metal Heart" resounded through the speakers in the last rays of the evening sun. Accept came on stage and went through song after song of absolute, pure, unadulterated... OWNAGE. I am dead serious, with all things considered:
-sound - brilliant and absolutely perfect, only the vocals were a tiny bit low in the mix but that's nitpicking at best.
-performance - absolutely top-notch, not missing one note or drum hit, all the players are immensely talented and we even got a really nice bass/drum solo. ALSO of note was the impossibly epic chorus shouting, I have no idea what effects those guys use to enhance their voices on the choruses, but they work so well they actually make 3 people actually sound like 30.000 angry rioters, far, far more effective and powerful than on CD.
-audience - the frustrated Manowarriors left by this time, so the golden circle area was spacious enough to move freely but didn't feel "empty," and there were lots of REAL Accept fans around singing along to the catchiest fucking choruses ever.
-band's attitude - the band were having the time of their life on stage, they obviously didn't expect this kind of reception, always moving around, headbanging and rocking out, not a moment standing still.
-weather - even the rain died down by this time and it was a cool 25 degrees or so, perfect open-air concert weather.
this was BY FAR the best concert I've ever seen in my life. I should also specify that I only knew some of the songs they played vaguely but still managed to enjoy them immensely. The best point was when they played the epic Neon Knights, I seriously was at the brink of crying of emotion at the end. Their concert had such an effect that I even went into the pit after 3 years during Burning.
At the end they wrapped it all up after a "we want more" chant which seemed to last forever, with their classic shit, Princess of the Dawn, Fast as a Shark(with the hilarious intro), and of course Balls To The Wall(charmingly introduced by Peter Baltes as "a song written in 1983 about all people in Romania who have been taken away"). Not much more needs to be said, Accept were impossibly better than every other band of the day and no-one but them deserved to headline, pure and simple.
Soon to come: Day 2 and 3 reports with The Big 4, Stone Sour, Alice In Chains and Rammstein.