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Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2019

Event: Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2019
Written by: RaduP
Published: 17.08.2019

Rockstadt Extreme Fest is also a very important one for me, being the first festival I ever attended with my girlfriend, back in 2015. Ever since we've only been together, and though we skipped last year, this was a year to be young again, so we went back to where we started and see how much it has changed.

Now usually I would divide the article by days and write a short write-up on each band, but considering how many bands there were which I can't really tell apart so I can't really write a different write-up for each one, I'll try to loosen the structure a bit. Also despite getting media accreditation, as opposed to ARTmania, I didn't get photo creds. So in return, this article will have no pictures. If you want to see pictures, look at their Facebook page's recent photo albums.

Though I ought to consider myself lucky not having gotten photo creds due to the huge amount of rain. Before going to the festival, I did look at the weather forecast, which stated almost non stop rains for all four days. Oh boy! This obviously meant having to get rain appropriate shoes and a trusty raincoat. The truth was a little less tame, with about an hour of rain in the first day (though I heard that the morning had a colossal rain, but we were still on the way), pretty much no rain on the second, with all the heavy rain being left for the last two days. Needless to say, despite the effort of the organizers to add some hay over the mud, there was no way to get home with clean shoes.

With tickets always increasing in price from edition to edition, I'm thankful that the prices still remain decent compared to other festivals outside the country and you always get your money's worth in bands. So even if you don't secure an early bird ticket, one can buy a ticket during the actual festival for a decent price (around 80 Euro). Early birds for the next edition were put on sale during this edition in limited number for around 30 Euro but those were sold out in less than 15 minutes from what I've been told, with a lot of folks accusing "businessmen" for this. As of now, tickets for the next edition can be bought for around 50 Euro. This edition also had one-day tickets for the first time, for around 45 Euro, meaning that getting two one-day-tickets was more expensive than just getting a full festival pass.

So even if the prices for the tickets aren't as expensive later on, one should still hurry to get accommodation sorted out unless they want to use the festival's camping zones. Rasnov, the city where the festival takes place, only has around 15.000 people, so obviously there aren't there isn't that much room for everybody. Despite going on yearly for about 7 years, the city still seems not to have adapted to it in the number of accommodation and taxis available, akin to authorities acting surprised when it snows in winter. There are some cities in the area, and one can even just get accommodation in the county's capital of Brasov, a city of nearly 300.000 people that is 15 km away from Rasnov. Though transportation (trains and buses) are plenty during the day to get to the festival, getting back to the accommodation in another city is quite a challenge. But from what I could tell Uber covers a large portion of the area, including both Rasnov and Brasov, and a quick price estimate on the website states that a ride would cost around 12 Euro. I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine who booked accommodation sell his ticket so he left me his booking, otherwise I would probably have had to book in Brasov or a city around it.

The festival has two camping areas, one close to the festival (on a football field) and one further from the city, to and from which transportation is assured by the festival. Sadly for you, happily for me, I haven't had to deal with the camping since 2015, where I only "slept" one night, found a used condom in my tent and had people scream "Cine doarme e un bulangiu" all night. Find out yourself what that means. Granted that was long ago, and now security around the camping area near the festival seems to be a bit tighter, so maybe things got better. But thanks I'd rather sleep under a roof, especially if it rains.

The town is quite nice for a small town in the mountains, the scenery is cool and it doesn't take that much time to walk from one place to another. There are plenty of ATMs and shops and supermarkets to fit the festival's needs. This was the first time that we actually went to eat breakfast out in the town instead of cooking eggs at the accommodation or eating semi-prepared pizza. Might have something to do with finally getting a job, who knows. But other than the morning coffee and breakfast, we ate at the festival or around it. The festival takes place near a citadel, basically near the parking lot at its base, which means that there are parking places there and also places to get food outside the festival area. For us, that meant that yearly parking lot shaworma to remind us where we came from. The shops around also had raincoats, which basically saved our asses one time. The citadel makes for great scenery and it's worth one visit (this being actually the first time we visited the citadel), but it looks much better from outside, so when it gets darker and you're at the festival and you look around, you see pine forests, mist and a medieval citadel, which makes it even more entrancing.

Foods and drinks in the festival area were much better than I remember them. To put it simply, the food prices and quality of the 2017 edition is one of the reason why I decided not to attend the 2018 one (despite missing out on Converge and Full Of Hell) since I didn't wanna pay 10 euro for one skewer and a bit of oil-soaked vegetables. Food prices this edition weren't that much cheaper, but they were cheaper nonetheless, and maybe I also got desensitized to high food prices and think that 5 Euro for a burger is cheap. But the food was not only cheaper but also better and with a lot of variety. From burgers to sausage sandwiches to cheese mamaliga to pickles (including a lot of things I never thought should ever be pickled, like pears and grapes) to cheesecakes to skewers to fires to pork neck to gulas to Radautean soup, there was no shortage of choices. And these range of choices seemed to extend to drinks as well, with the relatively high number of beer choices, also including wine, long drinks, shots. All in all, a pretty comprehensive drink menu. Other than the festival bar, there was also a coffee stand that also served hot chocolate (perfect after being soaked in rain). The stands were places where one could pay in cash or with a card, but the official festival bars and merch stands operated with a special festival card, which meant that prices for drinks were much more varied as opposed to standardized by the price of a token, which was a massive advantage. I obviously had to stand in queues, but they never felt never-ending, and they moved fairly fast, whether for food, drinks, entrance or toilets. Other than that one time after the Mgła performance where it felt like every male in the festival suddenly decided to go take a piss. Similar to a queue though were the many attempts to find a place to sit at the tables when it was time to eat. We managed every time, but if there is anything the festival needs from this point of view it is more tables.

The biggest change from the previous years was the dissolution of the small stage and the adding of two big stages, one next to the other one, one named Brasov Stage and the other Monster Stage. Back when I first went to REF, the very first day of the festival only had a few small concerts on the small stage and it was mostly a day for settling in, meeting people you haven't seen in a long while and so on. With a bigger budget, the first day started becoming a full day, with big concerts on the big stage too, which meant that one didn't really have that much for the aforementioned, but you also had much more big bands to see. The small stage remained a more intimate part of the festival, where a lot of grind, thrash, metalcore bands which really interacted with the audience played, so it was a perfect place for mosh pits and crowd-surfing and also due to it being covered by a tent, it was a perfect place to get shielded from rain. I remember how fun it was seeing the same goregrind band here every year and trying not to get hit by the boots of the costumed crowd-surfers. Out of the control of the organizers, they were forced to add a barricade between the stage and the crowd, which ruined most of the appeal of the small stage, so it's understandable why it was discontinued.

The two big stages meant that once a concert on one stage was finished, another one on the other stage could start. There were downsides and upsides to the entire thing. First of all, there was little time in between sets (other than the empty spot caused by Crystal Lake cancelling and the fortunate delay of Clawfinger's set). If there was a concert that one wanted to see closer to the stage, one could get in front of the stage while the other band was playing, and since the stages were so close to one another you could still kinda see and hear. The downside is that bands had to do their soundchecks while another band was playing on the stage right next to them, which I suppose is the reason why some bands sounded quite icky, but it also meant that if you were doing the getting-in-front-while-the-other-band-plays thing, you kinda had to have your enjoyment of the ongoing set sacrificed by hearing the next band tune in their drums. This is quite the way that I "sacrificed" Mortem (NOR) for Candlemass, Asphyx for Bloodbath, and 1349 for Mgła, so sorry if write-ups on those bands had to suffer. I couldn't really tell why some bands managed to sound so great, while others sounded so awful sound-quality-wise, regardless of the stage they were performing on, so I guess the soundcheck-while-another-band-plays is to blame, but thankfully some bands had their sounds redressed throughout the set, like Schammasch who went from only audible drums and vocals to one of the best sounding sets of the festival in about ten minutes.

Now that we got all of that info that you don't care about unless you're considering attending out of the way we can move on to the actual concert reviews.

If there was one genre that defined this edition of REF, it would be metalcore. Obviously core fans would say that there was much more black metal. And fans of other subgenres would complain that metalcore and black metal were all dominant and we barely got anything else. A look at the lineup reveals varying amounts of truth to each of these claims. There was quite something for everybody, more or less, but out of all subgenres, black and metalcore were the ones that had most representation. And probably because of how indifferent I was to a lot of the black metal bands, it felt like the metalcore ones outnumbered the black ones. And it was due in part to how hard it was for me to tell apart one from another and how unfamiliar I was with most of the metalcore bands that performed, and one even got cancelled and another replaced. This obviously kinda ruined my initial plans to go by the books and do a write-up on all bands that I saw, so I'll try to cover as many bands that I can instead.

I did enjoy most of the metalcore bands, especially the ones on the first day before I got a bit tired of the sound. Adept, Bleed From Within and Betraying The Martyrs were all great, but other than the fact that the latter had two vocalists, I can't say I can rank them or tell them apart, and after the first day I kinda stopped paying attention to bands of the kind, despite enjoying what I heard. Sure, there were little differences, with Ghost Iris being more on the djent side, High $tatus covering a Post Malone song and generally being less trap than I expected them to be, and Clawfinger being such a weird and uninspired choice for a headliner that only made me regret having missed Limp Bizkit when they came to Romania a few weeks prior. But out of all the core bands, the one I remember the most is the more hardcore leaning Brothers Till We Die with their local band level of enthusiasm, having their singer shout "Wall of death" or "Circle pit" a dozen times when asking for one. Also their set ended with them putting on Darude - "Sandstorm", so seeing all the black metal kids with corpsepaint dancing to it was amazing.

There were some Romanian bands as well, though very few I could say that I was in any way interested in. There was the aforementioned High $tatus. There were the cartoon music inspired grind act Blutrina, where people in the crowd kept throwing a piece of toilet paper around. And there was also Sur Austru, the band formed from the last lineup of Negură Bunget, who I had already seen like four times beforehand, and I hope the next time I do they will have released their debut album.

The first day seemed more focused on gothic acts, from the local Romanian bands, to the headliners Katatonia and Paradise Lost. It wasn't the first time I saw Katatonia, the first being at ARTmania where they performed songs from all throughout their career, and the second being a full The Great Cold Distance set. The one at this festival was a full Night Is The New Day set, which is a quite recent album to be celebrated, but a pretty good one nonetheless, though one I wasn't that interested in. And seeing how they butchered "Forsaker", the song I liked most from the album, made me lose my interest in the rest of the set, during which it became quite apparent that Jonas is getting quite old too. I was getting used to thinking of most 80s and 90s band as them getting old but the thought of Katatonia doing so too was quite saddening.

Paradise Lost on the other hand sounded massive and totally washed away the bitter taste of the Katatonia set. It was the first time I had seen Paradise Lost live and with this, I have seen all of the Peaceville three (though Anathema didn't play any doom stuff when I saw them). From what other people told me, they don't always sound as good live, so we must've been very lucky, because this was definitely one of the festival's highlights. Though I found it weird that they played three songs from the previous album and only one from their latest, I couldn't complain since I enjoyed hearing "No Hope In Sight" and "Beneath Broken Earth" much more than I would've any song from Medusa. We were already tired from the road, but we powered through the three encore songs because it was so much worth it.

The second day, mostly rain-free and with some thrash metal from Onslaught and Ektomorf meant that it was finally time to get a small dose of moshing, though no crowd-surfing this time. Out of the limited number of festivals I've been through, it's REF that had the best moshing and crowd-surfing, with special security folks ready to catch crowd-surfers once they reach the barricade. And moshing to some thrash metal, whether more old-school or more Sepultura like was a great change of pace from the gothic first day.

Though the second day also had its fair share of goth vibes with that I and all of the people I talked to agree should've been the day's headliner: Candlemass. Getting in front as close as we could and switching the usual beer for some red wine, we were ready to get bewitched by the epic doom titans. Them being reunited with the original Epicus Doomicus Metallicus singer, Johan Längqvist, was what ultimately convinced me to come back to Rockstadt in the first place. What was ultimately surprising for me was that more songs from Nightfall were performed than ones from Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, with "Bewitched", "The Well Of Souls" and "Dark Are The Veils Of Death" from the former and "Solitude" and "A Sorcerer's Pledge" from the latter. Though I did enjoy hearing Johan's take on the Messiah tracks, I would've loved to hear more tracks from the original album or from their reunion album, from which they only played "Astorolus - The Great Octopus". Candlemass was one of the bands where even though you could feel they were old, they still sounded amazing (same can be said for the aforementioned Onslaught). Though I wish Candlemass got the headlining spot they deserved, that would've meant that we would've had to sit through Korpiklaani and Six Feet Under, but we were thankfully spared.

The third day had a great pair of black/death bands and a great pair of OSDM bands, with a classic heavy metal band to top it all off, so it felt really neat, like they were building upon the previous act. Schammasch, one of the bands I never would have expected to see at such a mainstream fest, were, like I previously mentioned, one of the best sounding acts of the festival once their initial sound errors were fixed, with some great scene presence and atmosphere as well. It was actually fitting that this day was the one where the rain started again, since it would've been really unfit to see Schammasch or Bølzer in the scorching sun. Bølzer sounded just as great as the first time I saw them, and though I'm not as fond of the Hero tracks, they still sounded amazing live too. It's really so mindblowing how some bands can't manage to sound as full with five members, yet Bølzer absolutely crush with just two members. The riff from "Entranced By The Wolfshook" was gonna be stuck in my head for a while.

So after that entrancing duo came a more brutal one in the form of Asphyx and Bloodbath. The dutchmen Asphyx were pretty good, but I can't kid myself that I enjoyed them nearly as much as I did Bloodbath. Though Old Nick is my least favorite of the Bloodbath vocalist, his performance with Paradise Lost a few days ago made me very eager to hear him do actual death metal and it was way worth it. Other than the songs from the new album, which I haven't listened to that much, it was great to hear all of those songs I was obsessed with five years ago, from "Cancer Of The Soul" to "Cry My Name" to "So You Die" to the obvious closer that everyone was waiting for, "Eaten". Yeah, Old Nick won me over. Might have had to do with the heavy rain that made everything more morbid.

Tired from the rain, we retreated into the tables area, perfectly evading Clawfinger's set and debating whether or not we should get closer to the stage for Accept's set, which we did about halfway through. Accept was somewhat of a weird band to headline Rockstadt Extreme Fest, not that I wouldn't have wanted to see them live, I most definitely did, but because, well, they are not extreme as the name of the festival suggests. But since W.A.S.P. also played last year, I suppose heavy metal is slowly seeping in and I can't say I really mind. I didn't recognize all of the songs, but I really enjoyed hearing "Teutonic Terror", "Fast As A Shark", "Metal Heart" and most of all "Balls To The Walls" to remind me of listening to V-Rock while playing GTA Vice City back in the day. I pretty much heard all of the Accept songs that I would've wanted to hear, and they also played around a lot with some classical music as well in between songs, though right now I can't remember exactly which piece.

After the triumphant "Balls To The Walls" it was quite a weird change of pace when Attila Csihar took to the other stage. Ok, first some context. Other than the main festival event, there were two other events related to the festival. First it was the Rockstadt Underground Artists contest that took place one day before the festival and six bands competed for that TBA spot from the first day. This one is of no concern to us. Other than that, and one that I really would've been interested in, was The Cave Between Worlds, a dark ambient show over two days that was to take place in a cave nearby and only allowed 60 people, 30 people who won share contests, and 30 tickets for people who paid over 200 euros to get one, but only around 10 tickets were sold the last time I checked. One of the four acts that was supposed to play was Void Ov Voices, Attila Csihar's dark ambient project, but due to heavy rains the cave couldn't host the concert so it was moved for after Accept's set, adding Balázs Pándi on drums (who worked with Merzbow and Zu), under the name Hiedelem. So, as mentioned, a weird change of pace seeing Attila Csihar loop and process his weird throaty vocals live while gesticulating. Definitely something that would've fit in the cave in the right mood. The free jazz drumming didn't really feel like they blended well with the ritualistic vocals and I would've prefered that this stayed a Void Of Voices performance. But what was better than the performance itself was the bewildered look on the faces of the bystanders.

After some more obvious core and feeling of regret having just missed Hexis, the rest of the day promised three black metal bands, though it was only Mgła that I was really interested in. I did like 1349's visual presentation as I liked Mortem (NOR) a few days back, with the corpsepaint, the pyrotechnics and the costumes and the music isn't bad at all, just not really something I was that interested in. It was only later that I found out that this was Mortem (NOR)'s first performance in about 30 years, which was surprising because I can swear that I had seen that logo before.

When Mgła came onstage with their hoodies and masks, they couldn't fool anybody since we had already seen their faces when they did the soundcheck. Regardless, their stage presence worked, probably because it started raining heavily again, but mostly because of how great their music is. The performance was tight, I could recognize some of the songs, but when their titles are basically just the album title and the track number, I have a hard time remembering which is which, but they translated really nicely from album to stage. I was somewhat expecting them to play the new song they had just released, but I was pleased with the Exercises In Futility-centric set.

Once Mgła was over, the feeling that the festival would soon be over started to set in. Which kind of hindered my ability to properly enjoy Soilwork, adding to the fact that I spent a good portion of their set getting hot chocolate. It's a band that we've seen before a few years ago at the same festival so I wasn't that interested in the set, but I was looking forward to hearing some songs from Verkligheten live, and indeed those sound pretty great live.

But I can't lie, I was waiting for Hypocrisy, the festival's final great band. It was already having trouble deciding upon my favorite sets of the festival when their set came and they quite flipped things over, especially when they played "Adjusting The Sun" and that medley of old OSDM songs, it was just ravaging and it blew me away how great Tägtgren still sounded, like he hasn't aged a day. Despite the rain and how late in the festival it was, there were still plenty of crowdsurfers at this point, and I also saw a few folks with alien masks, which made me giggle.

And after such a great set as Hyprocisy's, Dimmu Borgir was quite the anticlimatic finish. There was a great fireworks moment right before their set that made me glad to have been there and it was a very nostalgic moment, but when Dimmu Borgir started with songs from their new album, it quite ruined the mood. Me and a few friends joked around that we didn't know that Nightwish was gonna headline. We were tired and wet and we wanted to go home, but we powered through the first half of the set before we got to some songs that I remembered from back in the day, namely "Gateways", "Dimmu Borgir" and "Puritania", but when checking their setlist I saw that they would perform more songs from the new album before getting to the actual good stuff, we decided that it's not worth the wait so we retreated to the warm comfort of our accommodation.

And that was that, I really don't regret the experience of going to Rockstadt again, I loved some of the changes that were brought to the festival and it's overall a much more enjoyable experience. I may have enjoyed it more the first time I went, but I'm sure there's a lens of nostalgia and of experiencing something for the first time involved. Sure, there were some really unfortunate choices for headliners, but I liked more sets than I was indifferent or opposed to. And the 2020 edition is already shaping up nicely.

Written on 17.08.2019 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 4   [ 1 ignored ]   Visited by: 30 users
19.08.2019 - 01:54
My recent experience with Paradise Lost was not as good as yours. The fact that Korpiklaani and Six Feet Under get to play after Candlemass is an insult to metal music and to music in general for that matter. I am seeing Mgła next month and time cannot pass quickly enough.

Excellent write-up man, it's nice to give some info on the festival for the people that plan to visit in the future.
19.08.2019 - 03:36
Written by nikarg on 19.08.2019 at 01:54

My recent experience with Paradise Lost was not as good as yours. The fact that Korpiklaani and Six Feet Under get to play after Candlemass is an insult to metal music and to music in general for that matter. I am seeing Mgła next month and time cannot pass quickly enough.

Excellent write-up man, it's nice to give some info on the festival for the people that plan to visit in the future.

So I really was lucky with Paradise Lost. And yeah everyone agreed that Candlemass should've been the headliner.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
19.08.2019 - 22:07

I remember watching the beginning of Dimmu Borgir after Neurosis finished their set at Hellfest last year. I lasted 2 songs before realising they couldn't even begin to compete and it was past midnight, so I'd rather just sleep. Feel like the only one of their shows I would enjoy would be that Enthorne Darkness Triumphant tour they did a few years ago (or at least I think they did?)
19.08.2019 - 22:10
Written by musclassia on 19.08.2019 at 22:07

I remember watching the beginning of Dimmu Borgir after Neurosis finished their set at Hellfest last year. I lasted 2 songs before realising they couldn't even begin to compete and it was past midnight, so I'd rather just sleep. Feel like the only one of their shows I would enjoy would be that Enthorne Darkness Triumphant tour they did a few years ago (or at least I think they did?)

They did play a EDT song, but it was the last on the setlist so I wasn't gonna wait that long
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?

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