Graspop Metal Meeting has issued the following:
Three hundred and sixty one days of the year, the Kempen region is an oasis of quiet. On the remaining four, 135,000 metalheads flock to Dessel to celebrate their annual high mass. No psalm books here, though: GMM is all metal all of the mother***ing time. Awesome crowdFor three days, thousands of metal fans commune in an atmosphere of friendship, understanding, tolerance and an uncompromising love of heavy music.
Unfortunately, this otherwise successful edition was somewhat overshadowed by the usual pickpockets as well as a number of thefts from tents. The police assume these are the work of organised gangs of thieves. We can only hope that the other Belgian festivals this summer will be spared and this won’t turn into a trend.
Even though Graspop didn’t officially start till Friday, the Red Bull Bedroom Jam launched this year’s festivities in the Metal Dome on Thursday night. Leave Scars, Komah and Hexa Mera were given the pleasant task of getting everyone in the right mindset for 72-hour marathon that was to follow. At 9 pm, the Metal Dome was inaugurated with an epic intro, complete with an overdose of fog, pyrotechnics and a sea of confetti. The Metal top 50 kicked off with AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. Click here to listen to the entire top 50.
On the following day, the task of opening the actual festival fell to the lovely hard rocking ladies of Crucified Barbara. Under a light drizzle they made the most of not only their physical assets but their musical prowess as well. They did a great job of clearing the cobwebs of the previous night and whetting the fans’ appetites for what was to come.
As fate – or the usual awful traffic on Belgian and German motorways – would have it, the guys from Soulfly were unable to make their time slot on the main stage. As a result, they were promoted to main act in Marquee II. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed a string of Sepultura covers and there was no shortage of mosh pits or circle pits. For a while there, Marquee II sounded like a general rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup.
Coal ChamberCoal Chamber’s “Julius, the American Eagle” is the hands-down winner of the prize for most impressive intro. Dez Fafara walked on stage with an eagle perched on his arm and it must be said, the DevilDriver frontman’s nu-metal jacket is still a perfect fit. Coal Chamber used to incorporate quite a few gothic elements into their music but the nu-metal they served up in the marquee was far from gloomy; on the contrary, their performance sparked a great little metalfest in front of the main stage.
The Swedes from Dark Funeral presented their 20th anniversary tour. They thought jets of flame would be more appropriate than mere candles and they were right, of course. Fire, smoke and ice cold black accentuated with spikes and corpse paint were the ingredients of a blood-curdling set. Much to the delight of their faithful followers and in celebration of their two-decade career, the entire set was constructed around their debut album “Secrets of the Black Arts”.
Love and Death, the “side project” of Brian ‘Head’ Welch, who joined Korn on stage later that evening, played a set that made no effort to hide the band’s roots. Unadulterated aggression, infectious singalong choruses and thoughtful lyrics, that’s Love and Death in a nutshell. According to Welch “Life is never over ’til you say it’s over”.
Last year, Dee Snider’s Twisted Sister crowned themselves kings of Graspop Metal Meeting and what better way to thank them than by inviting them for a headlining encore? Dee Snider won’t even bow to the force of that “cunting whore”, Mother Nature herself. “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” and there’s nothing the driving rain or bassist Marc “The Animal” Mendoza’s bum knee can do to change that. The set list was pure indulgence and to top it all off, this nice – and nervous – Dutch metal fan got to propose to his girlfriend on stage with Twisted Sister as his witness. Other guests on stage were the young guns from Asking Alexandria who came on for “I Wanna Rock”. Despite the unfavourable weather, Twisted Sister kept thousands of drenched fans happy for ninety minutes, a feat only the greatest bands can pull off.
GMM woke up to dry skies and tentative sunshine on Saturday and in spite of a long night of rain and beer sampling, Vanderbuyst drew quite a crowd on the main stage. Their traditional hard rock sounded as tight as a duck’s ass and provided the ideal soundtrack for nursing the weekend’s first hangover.
Over the years, Graspop Metal Meeting has always taken every opportunity to showcase home-grown talent. This year Steak Number Eight was given the chance to prove to Marquee II that they are fast becoming one of leading bands on the European sludge metal scene. Called in at the last minute to replace Overkill, the Wevelgem boys proved they fully deserved to be part of this year’s lineup. They were on top form last Saturday and they certainly did Belgium proud!
On the main stage, Bullet for My Valentine repeated their stellar performance from 2011 when they headlined Marquee II, whereas hardcore giants Agnostic Front proved they are still among the top dogs on the hardcore scene with a genuine NYHC party in Marquee II.
Next up in Marquee II was Down and they kept the party going with a truly exceptional gig. This New Orleans supergroup hit the crowd with a barrage of top tracks. Phil Anselmo was clearly up for the challenge and the enthusiasm both on and off stage was a fast for the eye (and ears).
From young upstarts to a logical and deserved headliner, that’s the Slikpknot story in a nutshell. Their impressive sound and light show was the perfect conclusion to the second festival day. A fast-paced set list chock full of hits whipped the crowd into a frenzy and the Iowa sons thanked the fans with the usual round of encores.
The final festival day dawned bright and sunny and Belgian band King Hiss proved that Graspop Metal Meeting is keeping an eye on the new generation of Belgian metal bands. King Hiss is a great stoner rock band with awesome grooves that seem tailored for a large audience. Meanwhile, the main stage hosted a band that has the Steve Harris seal of approval. The gentlemen from Voodoo Six came out all guns blazing and their traditional hard rock with the occasional nod to the likes of Maiden and UFO clearly met with the fans’ approval.
Karma To BurnThe award for this year’s heaviest set is now resting on a mantelpiece somewhere in Australia. Parkway Drive were one of the most noteworthy acts in Marquee II both last year and at GMM2011 so moving them to the main stage for their third consecutive GMM appearance was a matter of course. A large crowd of hardcore kids and metalheads joined forces in front of the main stage and went to the wire on “Boneyards”, “Karma” and “Sleepwalker”.
When Clutch were forced to cancel their entire European tour, including their GMM show, due to family circumstances, the guys from Karma to Burn were so eager to fill in they actually dropped a show in Rome just to be able to come to Dessel. After years of toiling in the underground, Karma to Burn has built an excellent reputation and in stoner circles they are considered one of the flag bearers of the genre.
The Portuguese gothic metal combo Moonspell practically lives here by now: GMM2013 marked their seventh appearance in Dessel! Inspired by the Spartacus series, front man Fernando took to the stage wearing a gladiator’s helmet. From the crowd response and the quality of Moonspell’s set you never would have guessed they only made it in the nick of time due to a disrupted flight schedule!
“Didn’t I see you guys the other day?” was the first thing out of Corey Taylor’s mouth when he mounted the main stage on Sunday. Just 24 hours after Slipknot’s stellar performance, he was back to rock the main stage again with this friends from Stone Sour. In a fantastic show, Taylor once again showed us how versatile a singer he really is and his talented band mates give him the chance to shine. Corey promised they’d be back soon and we’ll keep him to his word.
For Simone, Epica’s heavily pregnant lead singer, Graspop Metal Meeting was the last gig before going into maternity leave. She did a fantastic job and as one of the leading bands in the symphonic goth metal genre, Epica convinced friend and foe with a great “best of” in a marquee that was filled to capacity. The pyrotechnics made sure Epica went out with a bang.
Iron MaidenIn eighteen editions of Graspop Metal Meeting, there’s never been a larger or more eager crowd in front of the main stage than for the festival’s final headliner this year. As far as the eye could see, fans were squeezing into every inch of available space to find a spot with a good view of the main stage. After a five-year hiatus, the beast was back for a seventh GMM appearance, quite fitting really, since Maiden’s current band is a throwback to the days of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. Great visuals, an awesome Seventh Son-inspired stage, spectacular pyrotechnics and three different incarnations of the world’s most famous mascot were the icing on the cake. Triumphant, Iron Maiden took their leave, but not before the excitement reached fever pitch with encores “The Evil That Men Do” and “Running Free”.
The final blows were delivered in the two marquees this year by Testament and King Diamond. Maiden were a tough act to follow but our two iconic headliners in the marquees acquitted themselves admirably.
King DiamondIn Marquee I, two trailers were brought in to erect King Diamond’s mansion and the result was nothing short of spectacular. The King kept a crammed Marquee I enthralled from the intro tape of “The Candle” until final encore “Black Horsemen”. Thanks to his spectacular recovery from triple-bypass surgery and his healthier lifestyle, his vocal range has remained unaffected. If anything, hitting the high notes seems to come easier now than before the surgery. In the best Alice Cooper tradition, a King Diamond show is also a visual happening thanks to their use of props and several extras that bring the lyrics to life. The set was a mixture of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond classics, all of which have passed the test of time with flying colours.
Meanwhile, Testament were thrashing it up in Marquee II. For thirty years, these guys have been one of the proud flag bearers of the Bay Area Thrash movement. Front man Chuck Billy is an imposing figure with a huge stage presence and a voice to match and he had the crowded marquee eating out of his hand in no time. Testament treated the fans to timeless classics such as “Native Blood”, “Rise Up” and “Into the Pit”, and their rendition of “True American Hate” was undoubtedly the best thrash song of the weekend. This was their fourth GMM appearance and, as far as we’re concerned, definitely not their last.
King Diamond and Testament brought a fitting conclusion to yet another successful edition of the Graspop Metal Meeting.
We’re already looking forward to next year’s edition. Just 360 days left before the gates to metal paradise swing wide once again!