Live Report and photos by Katrin Malt
HARD ROCK LAAGER, the biggest metal festival in Estonia, took place from June 30th to July 1st, 2017. As an annual festival, this year was the 16th time when metalheads gathered up in Vana-Vigala for some quality music and a weekend to remember (or not, depending on the level of fine distilled spirits enjoyed). This year was no exception for Metal Shock Finland’s freelancer Katrin Malt, who went to Hard Rock Laager for the 16th time as well. Why? Because…
Because Hard Rock Laager has always had a fine rank of bands, from Estonia, as well as from abroad. This year, list of local bands was particularly delightful – a good mix of uprising bands, already well-known bands, an old reunion and even a farewell concert took place. Lastly mentioned band was LOITS (est), veterans of Estonian metal scene, giving a sweet farewell concert after more than 20 years of existence. There’s no better place for that kind of interment, Hard Rock Laager is the highlight of the Estonian (metal) year. It was solemn, it was bitter and sweet, all in one. When you grow up with some bands, a die-hard fan or not, they become a part of you and it’s hard to let go. And to secure some tears shed on the holy ground of Vana-Vigala, KATATONIA (swe) was this year’s headliner. It was a really, really good show and I was surprised how great and catchy their new songs were in live performance. New songs, old songs, all melted together in one breathtaking concert. It was a simple, yet moving show. Not simply music, but pure emotion. And when talking about emotions now, DND (est) did a great job as well. They’re about to release a new album and their new songs, damn, have to love the melancholy. I did feel a bit sorry for the non-Estonian speaking part of the crowd, because DND has such a perfect wordplay in their lyrics.
Hell no, Hard rock Laager is not the emo party you’d probably imagine it to be by now. Far from that. DEAD FURIES (est) made sure the mood went up and stayed up, with their „C’mon C’mon let’s do it“ echoing in the ears while marching through the mud to see HERALD (est), pure heavy metal made in Estonia. If you’re into heavy metal or have been so in your adolescence years, you’ll probably enjoy watching Herald. An oldschool heavy metal at its finest, with some Estonian touch added to their music. And speaking of fine things, ARCTURUS (nor) was such a treat! Voice of Vortex, his communication with the audience, little gestures he made – in was not simply a concert, it was a spectacle. Really intense, at times even balancing on the edge of (in)sanity. ASPHYX (ned), on the other hand, had a simple, yet massive show. Although different in genre, VAL TVOAR’s (est) concert was also on the massive side, kind of a mature concert. GORESOERD (est) had a catchy live, always nice to see the gore-zombies on stage, beats „Walking Dead“ anytime. SHOWER (est) was one of the most anticipated bands for Estonian crowd. Kings of Estonian thrash metal from 1990s had a reunion and it was great to see a legend becoming alive for one night. Not sure, if new legends were made or old ones demolished, as the grass of the childhood tends to get greener by time, but the show was enjoyable nonetheless.
Hard Rock Laager 2017 in a few numbers would be: 2 days, 22 bands, about 2K people. Small festival, but to be honest, the smallness is actually the greatest aspect of it. Seriously, you don’t have to watch the bands from mile apart nor stand in huge lines to even get into the festival area. A variety of food tents to choose from, plenty of places to buy drinks and a nice selection of beverages as well – regular beers, craft beers, ciders, distilled spirits, coffee-tea, soft drinks, you name it. A welcome change compared to festivals with one festival beer sold in most places. Merch tents, record store tents, everything in accordance with the festival’s size. The weather was not so great this year though – it’s been 15 years of more-less great festival weather, so one year of rain and mud is probably an exception not to be repeated at anytime soon.
In conclusion, Hard rock Laager is a great small metal festival in beautiful scenery. Line-ups cannot be compared to bigger metal festivals, but it’s a good chance to see top selection of bands in Estonian metal scene along with some great headliners from abroad. Have to say, there is something special, something heathen about the entire event. Maybe it’s the atmosphere: the manor’s park with ancient trees, an old chapel, the river, the fog (yes, My Dying Bride was one of the headliners a few years ago). Maybe it’s the people, taking annual pilgrimage to Hard Rock Laager. Maybe you’ll hate it. Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe you’ll even get addicted.