The road to Metaldays 2016 began with a four hour coach ride to the airport. Well, that’s how this should start, but really this began last year when we got the opportunity to visit this fantastic festival for the first time. Five days of amazing bands playing in beautiful surroundings in 37 degree heat. Metaldays 2016 had a lot to live up to.
After arriving at Ljubljana airport we boarded our pre booked shuttle bus for the two hour trip through the gorgeous scenery of central Slovenia until we made it to the festival ground. This ride is a great opportunity to see the sort of wilderness that you will camping in for the next week but sadly out journey was marred by a rather sadistic coach driver that did not want to stop for any ‘rest stops’. This lead to people on our coach actually restoring to using bottles to relieve themselves. Still, we mustn’t dwell on the negatives so onto the pre festival activities. While the first full day of music is on Monday the campsite is open to eager music lovers from Saturday afternoon. This allows an extra two days of festival experience with entertainment (and drinks) being provided at the beach bar, alcohol is for sale all day and DJ’s start playing from early evening. Sadly after a long day of travel on the Sunday it was time for an early night ready for the first day of music.
One of the great things that you get with Metaldays that you don’t get at other festivals is the real sense of this being a metal ‘holiday’ rather than your standard camping festival. With that being said the day started with a wonder down to the Soča river. The river and adjacent beaches are a huge part of this festival and you are encouraged to bring inflatables so that you can float down the water to the beach bar, a short walk from the main stage.
During the day I wondered between the two stages and the beach catching snippets of a few of the bands but I didn’t really get a chance to slow down and really watch a full set until Orphaned Land from Israel. With Eastern rhythms and Arabic influences it is difficult to define Orphaned Land but I will say that their performance was solid and they are definitely a band that I will be checking out in the future. Fleshgod Apocalypse were up next. Taking to the stage in large, almost pirate style, trench coats it was obvious that we were in for a show. A fantastic theatrical performance which the crowd clearly enjoyed. Taking us into the evening were Sacred Reich. While there isn’t loads to say about this performance I will say that it was obvious while watching that they really knew how to work a crowd and with their cover of Black Sabath’s War Pigs you really got to see the audience erupt.
Dark funeral were on the main stage next and while I have seen them at festivals before I was pleasantly surprised by their performance. Nothing special, but fairly solid all round. Testament were the last band of the day on the main stage, great as always and good fun watching singer Chuck Billy air guitaring on a mic stand. A great finish to the first day.
The day started with a trip over to the EuroSpin (one of the supermarket’s across the road from the festival) car park where a tradition was beginning, half a roast chicken and chips breakfast became a morning event to help shake off the hang over from the night before. Oh, and I should mention that if you buy a couple of beers then the guys from the bar next to the supermarket’s will let you sit in their beer garden while you eat and enjoy their ‘customer made’ metal playlist (a laptop with YouTube that anyone can line up anything they like on). Back to the camp and a dip in the water to cool off and on at the main stage just in time to catch the end of Eruption. I only saw the last half of the last sing but they had a good crowd considering the time and heat so one to listen to once home.
Mist were up next, hailing from Slovenia these guys were a nice change to some of the heavier bands that were to follow. While they had some technical difficulties during the first song they pulled everything together to deliver a great atmospheric, chilled rock set. Following Mist were GloryHammer. The stage was set for an epic show. The opening two songs delivering hearty anthems that had the crowd singing and dancing along. We got to witness the mystic hammer being delivered to Thomas Winkler and even a cameo from the Goblin King, then, came there rain. A lot of rain. So much that, to the disappointment to the crowd and the band, the rest of the set had to be called off. It was a sad sight but with the wind blowing the water into the stage and all of the equipment it was the right decision.
The rain eased up and the stage crew worked hard to get the water off the stage in time for Skálmöld to take to the stage at their allotted time. Playing their own brand of Viking metal they were able to regain a descent audience and get every body in front of the stage moving (a difficult feat after the rain).
Next on the main stage at Metaldays 2016 were Cattle Decapitation. I don’t really know what to say about this set. Nailing the deathgrind genre this performance was fast paced and energetic with the crowd reacting accordingly forming some of the best pits of the week.
After a short food break I caught the tail end of Insomnium and was ready for Arkona. I knew nothing about this band going into the festival but after being recommended by a few different people i decided to check them out and was very glad i did. It’s hard to place Arkona squarely into one category, female fronted folk metal with occasional death metal vocals? What I do know is that i liked it, and so did the crowd. As the sun went down over day two of Metaldays 2016 I watched a packed arena link arms with each other and dance the evening away. One to check out when I get home and definitely one to check out if you get a chance to see them live. Next up were veterans of the festival scene Skindred. With singer, Benji Webb, coming on in a pair of sunglasses covered in glittery silver spikes It was obvious that they were out to make a statement, and they did. By only about the 3rd or 4th song the crowd were in his hands, it’s was one of the sights of the festival watching every person at the packed main stage taking off their t-shirts and swinging them over their heads ‘Newport Helicopter’ style during ‘Warning’.
The final band of the night were Marduk, a band I had been looking forward to having not seen them live before. While the performance was good or lacked the theatrics of a lot of similar bands. While many would claim this to be more kvlt and less showy I personally felt let down considering this was there headline set for the day.
Day three of Metaldays 2016 began with the obligatory breakfast and wash in the river before heading down to the main stage in time to catch the Bombus ending their set. Up next were Aborted. While I’ve caught them at festivals before there was something extra about seeing huge circle pits in the rain. A great performance and a band I’m sure I’ll see again and again. Pro-pain, a band that I hadn’t seen before, followed and while they drew a slightly smaller crowd than Aborted they played a great set with solid, note perfect, solos provided by guitarist Adam Phillips and we’re able to get some impressive circle pits during faster tracks such as ‘shape of things to come’
Dying Fetus were up next delivering their fast paced death metal to the rather damp Metaldays crowd. Despite the rain earlier in the day spirits were not dampened and the crowd showed amazing support with some of the heaviest pits of the week. If you haven’t had a chance to see this band live yet you are missing out.
A change of pace as the chilled out psychedelic Graveyard took to the stage. This band had everything, from up tempo rock all the way to smooth blues, a perfect mid day festival band that would fit in at almost any festival. This was perfect ‘dance and forget your worries’ music and worked perfectly with the relaxed feel of this festival. With lines such as ‘we’ve seen you band your heads, now it’s time to see you shake your ass’s’ Graveyard nailed their set and I will definitely be looking out for them in the future.
Next up on the main stage at Metaldays 2016 was Napalm Death, a band that I have seen live many times before and they never disappoint. Joined on stage by John Cooke as fill in guitarist for foreseeable future the English grind core masters evoked a great crowd reaction with a mix of new and old songs.
The headliners for Wednesday were German thrash metal pioneers Kreator. Opening with the title track of their 2006 album ‘enemy of God’ it was clear that we were in for one hell of a set. The use of air cannons and pyro throughout the show (something that was rather scares this year) added to the experience and made up for the lack of performance from the previous nights headliners.
The last band on the main stage were Die Apokalyptischen Reiter. While I have caught them a couple of times in Germany I have never taken the time to really sit back and enjoy one of their sets. The whole set was great fun with lots of dancing from vocalist Fuchs and from the crowd. A big contrast to yesterday and a great way to see out the day.
Heaver rain in the morning kept me grounded at a bar just outside of the festival ground so the first band that i made it to the stage for was Serenity and it seems that many others had been held back by the downpour with only a hand full of people watching. Those that had turned out were clearly dedicated fans with a fantastic reaction towards the band. As the rain began to ease it was time for Immolation to take to the stage. Their fast passed, death metal style still sounding strong despite being a member down due to family issues at home. It was also nice to hear some praise for the festival organisers who sorted out various bits of equipment on short notice when the band’s got lost in transport.
Delain were next to the main stage, a vast contrast to the high speed death metal of Immolation the female fronted Dutch metalers had a good crowd going into their set. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the best slot for them to play and with a good chunk of the crowd seemingly taking this time to get food and drinks audience numbers seemed to vary from song to song. It was always going to be difficult being a slower gothic style band sandwiched between two heavier/faster titans of the scene but Delain held their own well and, I’m sure, won over some fans that day.
Up next were Septicflesh, a great set as always for a band that I have seen a couple of times in the last year. Always a fantastic show and always worth watching if you get the chance. Following them on the main stage were Electric Wizard, stoner doom hailing from Dorset, England. A strong set with some very trippy visuals this was a performance to get lost in, mellower than some of the other acts of the day but very much in keeping with the relaxed vibe of Metaldays 2016.
Devildriver took to the stage next, playing a set ranging from their 2003 self titled album right up to the recently released Trust No One. Frontman, Dez Fafara, has an great talent for making an audience feel as though they are hanging out with old friends, with stories of drinking and smoking with people around the camp sites the night before it is easy to see why Devildriver, and Dez himself, are always so warmly received. The final band of Thursday were At The Gates, a band that we have covered before and never fail to entertain. With killer riffs and a great stage show they always go down well at festivals and are definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen them before.
The final day of Metaldays 2016 saw the first full day of sun. With that said the morning (and a good chunk of the afternoon) was taken up doing what you do at Metaldays when the sun is out…. Floating down the river and enjoying the extra activities happening around the festival ground. Because of this the first band that I caught were American thrash metalers Exodus. Now, people that have read my other reviews know how I feel about thrash metal, and while they drew a huge crowd who were clearly enjoying themselves it just wasn’t doing it for me. If you get the chance to see them live I would recommend that you check them out and make up your own mind.
Blind Guardian were on next, a band that I have seen a few times at different festivals now and always deliver a crowd pleasing performance. Mixing classic songs with tracks from their new album the German power metals flowed seamlessly from heavier numbers such as ‘The Ninth Wave’, to acoustic sing a longs like ‘The Bards Song – In The Forest’. Blind Guardian have been going for almost 30 years now and still maintain at the forefront of the power metal scene, with performances like this it is easy to see why. Definitely worth watching if you get the chance to see them live.
The final band on the main stage were Dragonforce. Taking to the stage 30 minutes late it was down to guitarist Herman Li to explain to the crowd that vocalist Marc Hudson had become ill and would be replaced for the nights show by Norwegian youtube sensation PelleK. As a result the set was cut down to just over half and hour. I have seen Dragonforce before and not been their biggest fan but I have to say that this set surprised me and while it isn’t music that I would listen to day-to-day I found myself enjoying the performance. Also want to include that I have a huge amount of respect for PelleK who nailed the vocals on very short notice and did the majority of the set having to read the lyrics as he went, a task that can not be easy in front of a crowd of ten thousand.
Metaldays 2016 was wetter than last year but it was great to see that even the weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the metal heads attending. With plans already being made for next years event it’s clear that Metaldays is going to continue growing and evolving.
Keep an eye out for more photos from Metaldays 2016 in our photo gallery coming soon, and for more info on Metaldays check out their official website HERE.