Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Graspop Metal Meeting: Day 1

Day 1:

Ghost (aka Ghost BC)

    I was a little late arriving at GMM, so by the time I had explored the festival grounds it was already time for Ghost to take the main stage. I'd dare to argue that Ghost are known more-so for their live show than their music, so I was quite excited to see what all the hype was about. To those who are unfamiliar with Ghost, the vocalist dresses as a Satanic pope and the rest of the band are "Nameless Ghouls" who all dress in identical disguises. While this type of theatrics is expected of Black Metal bands, Ghost uniquely brings these theatrics to a radio-friendly genre of metal. Ghosts combination of epic synth lines, metal riffing and creepy singing provides an interesting atmosphere that feels as though Black Metal and Rock had some strange bastard child. While this might sound like an insult, I loved Ghost's performance! The best moment of the performance came during the song Monstrance Clock, when the crowd chant "Come together, together as one, Come together, for lucifer's son" took over the festival grounds. The chant was so repetitive and simple that nearly every person at the festival joined in. I found myself in a giant circle of people hugging, dancing in a circle and chanting along. The ball of satanic happiness roamed around the crowd and absorbed everyone it ran into. By the end of the song there were hundreds of people in what I imagine just started with one friendly drunk guy hugging someone. This friendly satanic vibe is something that can only be found at a metal festival, and it was an amazing start to Graspop Metal Meeting.

Quick Review: Happy satanic music works unbelievably well at a metal festival



     Day 1 at GMM boasted an incredible lineup of main-stage bands, so I spent most of the day hoping back and forth between the two side-by-side main-stages. One of the many highlights of Day 1 was Brazilian metal pioneers Sepultura. Sepultura brought an immensely powerful sound and a ferocious live show to GMM and easily took the cake for one of the most intense and purely aggressive performances of Day 1. The band did a great job of making the crowd felt involved, with several crowd chants, good friendly conversation between songs, and countless calls for circle pits. Sepultura came across as great performers who still have immense passion in their live show, as well as being genuine, appreciative, and friendly people. It was tough NOT to love Sepultura's performance. It was aggressive enough to exponentially increase your desire to punch everything around you, and yet still maintained the friendly feel of a metal festival community. 

Quick Review: Relentless aggression and a thoroughly entertaining live show.



     From the moment I arrived at GMM I heard cries of "SLAYER" coming from all corners of the festival grounds. It had become an inside joke amongst the fans to chant for Slayer no matter what band was actually scheduled to play next. While I'm not a huge Slayer fan, I decided this was a truly unique opportunity that I was going to make the most of it. I headed over to the main stage well before the start of Slayer's set and got myself as close to the front as possible. While the rain had begun to fall upon Graspop, there was an electric buzz among the fans waiting pressed up against the barrier. The cries for Slayer grew louder by the minute, slowly overcoming the sound system and the poor band that was slotted to play before Slayer. By the time Slayer finally took the stage the rain was pouring down and the crowd exploded into festival-rain-poncho filled mosh pits. 

     I caught Slayer live twice on my Europe trip and concluded that the enjoyment of their live show entirely depends on how much you get into it. Those fans who sit way back and simply watch will likely come out of their live set thinking it was a mediocre performance and was quite boring to watch. However those crazy fuckers who dare get right up front will all tell you with absolute unanimity that Slayer is one of the best metal bands to catch live ever. Slayer has minimal movement around the stage and adds very little to the stage show to keep on-lookers entertained. The key to enjoying them live is to dare to go into the pits and enjoy the absolute madness that takes place within. I spent the majority of the set in giant circle pits, and being thrown from one mosh pit to another. It was a perfect experience for those who desire to get a little nuts during metal shows. Slayer ended their set with Angel of Death dedicated to their late guitarist Jeff Hanneman, and left the crowd exhausted yet wanting more.

Quick Review: If you enjoy mosh pits, Slayer has one of the best live shows imaginable



     In one of the most insane back-to-back performances any metalhead could ever dream of, Slayer was immediately followed by both Behemoth and Opeth playing on different stages. While I was disappointed I couldn't see both, I had planned out my trip well enough to know that I could catch Opeth at Download (and miss Behemoth) and catch Behemoth at GMM. While for much of Behemoth's extensive discography I had been quite indifferent towards to Polish Black/Death Metal gods, their recent album The Satanist had got me hooked. While I lacked energy after moshing my way through 45 minutes of Slayer, Behemoth is famous for having quite the theatrical live show, so I once again got myself as close to the front as possible to experience it in all its glory.

     Behemoth had so much going on in their live show I genuinely can't remember how it all started. I do however distinctly remember the blood, the satanic crosses on fire, and the band changing outfits more often than they changed guitars. Behemoth are far from the purest Black Metal band out there, but they are certainly one of the faces of the genre. Their live show does a fantastic job of displaying what is so entertaining about Black Metal. There was an aura of genuine evil cast across the fields of Dessel during their performance, and enough fire, blood, and religious mockery to make any metal fan happy. To my pleasant surprise their set consisted almost entirely of material off The Satanist, nearly playing the album front-to-back, but swapping out some of the less memorable tracks for old favorites. Opening and closing their set with the book-ends on the new album was an incredible live experience with the crowd getting fully involved in the ending speech of O Father O Satan O Sun. Behemoth's theatrical live show has so much to offer and was easily the highlight of Day 1.

Quick Review: Incredibly entertaining theatrical live show with album quality sound


Avenged Sevenfold

     This was now my second time watching A7X on this Europe trip but the first time I decided to watch their set start to finish and give the California rockers a chance. A few things stood out right away in their performance. Firstly there was the stage show itself. There is clearly an insane amount of money put into attempting to give A7X a great live show as almost everything you could possibly add to the stage show was there. Banner: check. Screens: check. Insane amounts of LEDs: check. Fire: check. Fireworks: check. That strange stage design that allows member to walk around above/behind the drummer: check. Avenged Sevenfold throws so many flashing lights and fireworks into their live show that it's enough to keep an toddler with ADHD entertained. The second thing that struck me about their live show was the visible intoxication. While there's nothing wrong with getting liquored up before a performance, the fact I could spot it from 100 yards away starts to say something about the bands attitude towards accurately playing their music. I'm primarily speaking of Synister Gates in this case, who both looked like he might fall over, messed up frequently, and did the honour of providing drunken backing vocals. Third thing that struck me about their live show: Matt Shadows is perfect live. I may love to hate on A7X but I will say absolutely nothing against their front-man, he killed it. His vocal style might not be for everyone, but when it comes to performing it live, the man is truly talented.

     Avenged Sevenfold's performance did sort of piss me off for one reason in particular though. Every second of their stage show is pre-programmed, and pre-scripted. It's pretty sad when it gets to the point that in every city you perform you deliver the same speeches in between the same songs and hardly change a word. I understand these bands are constantly touring and it may be hard to change things up but this is what differentiates great live performers from the rest. Overall Avenged Sevenfold wasn't bad, and their fans loved the performance, but for me the whole thing felt very in-organic and stale.

Quick Review: Stellar live vocals, but drunken slip ups were the only not scripted element of the show 



     Day 1 was closed out by Swedish Power Metal band Sabaton. While i'm not much of a Power Metal fan, catching a Power Metal band at a major European metal festival was on my bucket list. There's just something about the genre that makes it inherently so much better in a live environment. The genre thrives on the European festival scene and massive festival crowds.

     Sabaton did not disappoint my power metal live expectations, putting on a great show filled with endless crowd sing-a-longs, shred-tastical guitar solos and songs about war. The power metal experience is a metal experience that felt more about friendship and brotherhood rather than anything aggressive. While I did feel a little out of place since I didn't know any of the words, I still had a great time watching Sabaton. Their stage show was unique and impressive. There were hundreds of lights to illuminate EVERYTHING, the drum set was a fucking tank (literally, it could even shoot things), and the band invited random fans on stage to participate in a Swedish feast. Sabaton's front man did a great job keeping the crowd entertained and cheery with his stories, speeches and jokes. I got sloshed on Belgian beers while watching a power metal band perform to tens of thousands of fans and had an awesome end to Day 1.

Quick Review: Everything you could want out of a power metal live show, plus a drum set that is also a tank


Thus ends the list of memorable performances from Day 1,
Thanks for reading!
Day 2 comes next week,

David, I'll see you when I hide in a tree outside your window.

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