FESTIVAL REVIEW: SUMMER BREEZE OPEN AIR 2016 – Day 1 (Thursday)
Summer Breeze Open Air is one of my most favorite places on earth. Set in the picturesque countryside in Central Franconia, just outside the town of Dinkelsbühl, this festival attracts a large but committed crowd each year. As an event that has seemingly escaped the ‘commercial’ feel that some of the other festivals have, from the moment you step foot inside Summer Breeze you automatically feel like everyone is part of your family. There is so much that could be written or said about the atmosphere of this festival and how it brings people together — and it’s not surprising that when asked about it that most bands state that this is one of their favorite festivals to play.
But enough about the setting, this festival had what I considered one of the most formidable line-ups of the entire festival season, and there was a lot of band’s I had to go and see. It’s always a tricky thing when you come all the way from the other side of the world to these events as you want to try and fill your time with not only bands that you are unlikely to see (being Australian that includes a lot of these), and bands you enjoy. It’s always a balancing act when you plot your course of action, but I think this year I got it just right! Beginning the start of the first day with Industrial powerhouse Lord of the Lost definitely set the tone for the festival –that new discoveries for great bands were everywhere I looked. Lord of the Lost are every bit your typical industrial metal band – but there was something about their presence on stage that made you feel like this was something more special than normal. It was very Rob Zombie-esque with corpse paint and the imagery, but the vibe was more that of a party, which peaked when the band sang a cover of Backstreet’s Back by the Backstreet Boys.
Monuments were next on the main stage, and the band put in a performance more energetic than the last time I had seen them at Brutal Assault in 2015, and were definitely deserving of their slot on the. But my first real highlight for the day and the festival was Omnium Gatherum. Having last seen them performing to the tent stage at Summer Breeze in 2014, and reviewing their latest album earlier in the year I was keen to see how the new songs would translate live. There was very little I could falter through the soaring harmonies, the ferocious leads, fierce vocals, and just an all around showmanship that just enhanced this show past anything I could have ever expected. The swell and increase in the crowd size from their past appearance in 2014 was purely the icing on the cake for the band.
I was lucky enough to watch Equilibrium again playing on the stage that I had first discovered them in 2014. I honestly can’t commend this band enough and if you are even mildly into folk music you need to have them on your radar. Their exponential growth from the 2014 show to now was astounding and seeing them perform some of their new material to an expansive and energetic crowd was simply awe inspiring. Even fans that didn’t know the lyrics were able to join into the massive crowd choral chanting to the band’s own unique take on the Skyrim theme song – and that was a sight to behold.
Catching tidbits of Asking Alexandria proved to be a good choice, but the next real highlight came when Exodus took to the main stage. The thrash staple were a band I hadn’t seen performing for some years, and there was just a vibe and energy about them that I didn’t recognize from years past. Even with the inclusion of Kragen Lum instead of the ever impressive Gary Holt didn’t slow the band down, with them still managing to nail every single one of the songs that they played.
At the Gates are a band I will always make time to go and see. Having seen them play more than a few times in the past few years, this is a band that just isn’t slowing down. Tomas Lindberg still does enough on stage to draw the crowd in, but it’s in the riffs and drum blasts that their show really takes off. The performance of these guys on the main stage at Summer Breeze was immense, with the sound reverberating throughout the main stage area and metal markets. It was the fiercest and most formidable that I have been the band, and definitely a performance I will remember. It was unfortunately around this time the rain sank in just as Fear Factory took the stage. Opting out of standing in the wet to watch a band I had seen a few months prior, I caught most of their set from off to the side, but from what I managed to see the band were in as fine a form as they had been in Australia earlier this year, with Burton C Bell’s vocals sounding the best they have ever been.
Now, if there is something you must experience at least once in your life it’s watching Sabaton at a German festival. If the days walking around the campgrounds with Sabaton tracks blazing from every angle isn’t enough to entice you for their upcoming performance, then the infectious nature of the massive crowd rushing towards the stages 10 minutes before the band begin will be. Sabaton were sublime on stage, coasting through a mix of tracks old, new, and even including the live debut of track Shiroyama. There is very little wrong that Sabaton can do on stage in front of a German crowd, but the band doesn’t rest on their laurels and just bring an intensity that is unmatched by many. Joakim Brodén is the quintessential frontman, with the epicness of his presence on stage being matched by only the strength of his voice. The rest of the band in the wings round out the live part of this spectacle, but with a tank drum riser and flamethrower action, you can just imagine how this all went down. Closing out the set by telling the crowd to go and buy their new album (it became available at midnight, just as the band was finishing their set) stirred a massive response from the crowd and capped off a blistering set.
Pulling the pin on my exhausted body, I took this opportunity to call it a night and head back to my tent – which luckily enough was situated in a nice enough area that I could hear Testament from the main stage – a nice way to wrap up a hectic day with some truly great tunes. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts meant that I wasn’t able to see Abbath, Entombed A.D. or The Black Dahlia Murder or Swallow the Sun, but after looking at the list of bands I managed to catch on the Thursday, I was still pretty happy.