Two days of metal mayhem had passed. One day remained. As the battle hardened souls set forth from their tents once more into the Arena, the cry was sounded and they answered the call.
The UK’s Voodoo Six (8) is a band very much on the rise, and it is they who begin the day’s festivities. Feeding off each other’s energy, guitarists Matt and Chris are on fire for such an early part of the day. Luke Purdie sounds fantastic and new songs like “Falling Knives” and “Sink Or Swim” do not disappoint. They finish their slot with the gargantuan “Long Way From Home”. Next up, Danish veterans, Pretty Maids (6) do their utmost to get the meagre crowd going with some fun sing-a-longs to their power metal anthems. “Back To Back” and old favourite “Future World” blow the dust off the early morning revellers.
Hiding from the sun in Marquee 2, Every Time I Die (8) with their whirlwind frontman, Keith Buckley, up the intensity for the day. Back on Mainstage, Hellyeah (8) are the surprise package of the weekend. Vinnie Paul’s cowboys deliver a set full of stomping southern metal. Mohawked frontman Chad Gray is a natural as he draws the crowd into their world. “Stampede” is immense and “Band of Brothers” is dedicated to every single person in the metal community. Hellyeah deliver the hammerblow with “Hellyeah” and leave the audience hopping with glee.
In the darkness of Marquee 1, Portugal’s Moonspell (7) send the gothic metal community into ecstatic elation. Fernando Ribeiro is a giant of a man onstage and “Opium”, “Vampiria” and “Full Moon Madness” bring the metal melancholy. Parkway Drive (9), draws the biggest crowd of the day so far to the Mainstage. Basking in the sunshine, these Aussies are in their element in front of their fans. Their pummelling intensity is welcomed by masses of crowd surfers. Special mention has to be made to the two fellas who continually surfed through the set while riding and wrestling their inflatable crocodiles. Winston and the boys are ferocious and respond to the crowd’s enthusiasm with a barrage that includes “Sleepwalker”, “Dark Days” and “Carrion”. Parkway Drive is another of the younger bands on the scene that have the balls to be bigger.
As Parkway Drive’s set came to a close, I ran down to the crammed metal dome to catch the last two songs of the Red Fang (8) set. These guys won’t be playing the small stages for long. Songs like “Wires” and “Prehistoric Dog” are modern rock masterpieces to drink beers to. God Seed’s (7), black metal orchestrations were made to be played in a dark cave in the heart of a Norwegian forest. Gaahl and his cohorts bedecked in full corpse paint are more menacing that a hoard of Viking marauders under the sweaty canvas of Marquee 1.
Following on from the previous night’s triumph, Corey and James from slipknot are sans-uniform and rocking the hell out of the main crowd. Stone Sour (8), is a band very much with their own identity. Playing songs from House of Gold & Bones – Part 2 and earlier releases, they are rock gladiators fighting in the arena they were destined to kill in. Closing with a chuggernaut version of The Sab’s “Children of the Grave”, a roaring”Get Inside” and a stupendous “30/30-150” leave none in its wake.
Thankfully, Ghost (10) is in the big Marquee. In previous festivals, their impact has been a little lost in an outdoor setting. This evening, you can smell the incense to be used during the ritual. The stage resembles an alternative church, as the Nameless Ghouls take their positions. Opening with the instrumental “Infestissumam”, the ghouls are warming the venue into a pyre. Papa Emeritus II, processions onto the stage to begin his oration with “Per Aspera Ad Inferni”. Bedecked in his ceremonial finery, he is the true master of ceremony, gesturing like a puppeteer controlling his marionettes. “Death Knell”, “Elizabeth” and “Con Clavi Con Dio” are all aired from Opus Eponymous. PEII quips and equivocates to the audience with his dry humour. New album songs get a dusting off too. The disco doom of “Year Zero” cannot be ignored as one of the best songs released this year. For this reviewer, two songs from this year’s Infestissumam really clicked in the live environment, the schizophrenic “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” and the sing a long closer Monstrance Clock. On the night “Ritual” steals the show with its horrific chorus. Their master will be pleased.
Göteborg’s In Flames (9), singer Anders reminds the crowd that “the security guys up front are here to help you surf” and the fans duly oblige. He also quips about the expensive lighting rig they brought being lost in the sunshine. They play a cracking set of new and old. “Pinball Map” is always a crowd pleaser and the unforgettable “Take This Life” justify their position on the bill. The return of Jason Newsted with his band Newsted (7) came out of the blue this year with the release of the EP “Metal”. Seeing Jason back on the stage in Marquee 2 is a happy occasion as one of the best loved bassists of his era rips through a well-received set of new material including “Soldierhead”. Some technical difficulties didn’t kill momentum and Jason levelled the marquee with a neck-breaking cover of “Whiplash”.
A rather early headline starting time of 9pm hampers the initial atmosphere that Iron Maiden (9) brings to the arena. That being said, Iron Maiden’s arsenal (apologies to Mr. Harris) coupled with their fervent fan base, eventually kicks the evening into gear. Bruce is a cannonball as he gallops around the stage. The special part of this set is the nostalgic return to the Maiden England repertoire. Hearing “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, sends chills down the spine. “The Clairvoyant” and “Can I Play With Madness” keep the die hards happy. Janick flings his guitar around more than he plays it. Eddie makes his scheduled appearances to much rapturous cheering. Alongside the rarely played numbers (“Wasted Years” is a personal highlight), the staple classics are aired and on “Fear of the Dark”, Bruce could easily go for a cup of tea while the 80,000 do his job. Closing with the trilogy of “Aces High”, “The Evil That Men Do” and “Running Free”, Iron Maiden are masters of the larger than life shows and tonight is no exception.
Following on from the headliners, Testament (9) bring their Dark Roots of Thrash to the Marquee 2 and the bay area bruisers do not disappoint with a firm set of mosh pit friendly anthems. Skolnick and Petersen are one of the best twin attacks in the game and what more can be said about frontman Chuck Billy and his larger than life voice. Magnificent.
Whereas the early start time was to Maiden’s disadvantage, King Diamond (10) was born into darkness. Given the honour of closing the festival, he has brought his full stage show. The front of the stage is like a huge metal trellised gateway. The King, pulls no punches tonight, and blisters through a set of sheer theatrical terror. All the props, actors and stagings are used. King’s voice still has the ability to reach levels heard only by hellhounds. Songs like “The Candle”, “Eye of the Witch” and “Sleepless Nights” He revisits his Mercyful Fate legacy on “Come to the Sabbath” and an outstanding “Evil”. The festival is closed with a second encore and those still standing are treated to the haunting “Black Horseman”. King Diamond is headlining the Bloodstock Festival in a few weeks. Do not let the chance pass to see this spectacular stageshow.
In a year where nostalgia reigned, a few new contenders to the throne emerged and it will make the next few years on the festival scene a very interesting time. Although, there is an old curse that says “May you live in interesting times”. Once again Graspop Metal Meeting has been a triumph. In its 18th year GMM is one of the best metal festivals on our planet, and metal fans from far and away should mark the dates for GMM 2014 in their calendars.
*Special mention must go to all the staff, the organizers and the security personnel who make it such a fun, safe and enjoyable 3 days of metal.
Photos by Tin Tronckoe, Elsie Roymans and Hans Van Hoof