Graspop 2017 - Review with Ivo

Graspop, one of the Big Three European Metal Festivals (the others are Wacken Open Air and the always unbelievable Hellfest) is around the corner again and for some reason I’m there again.
Graspop is everything that Roadburn isn’t. A big multimillion corporation that tries to please everybody from the stoic black metal elitist to the beerbellied weekendtripper who likes the singles of AC/DC. A sponsored spectacle where you are constantly being reminded which companies and brands brought the bands this year.

Luckily it’s not all mercantile cynicism and cultural poverty. There are also bands. Even good ones!
Friday was basically Rammstein-day. The German have not played on Belgian soil for a while now and the Belgian audience showed up en masse to witness their spectacle. That resulted in a densely crowded festival area and many people who was waiting for one band and one band only.
Still there was an entire day to kill before Ze Germans would occupy the mainstage and there were bands to check out.
The first was
Sinistro who made their Graspop debut in less than ideal circumstances. The Portugese doom fado collective had a shitty timeslot at around 13h in the Metaldome, a small marquee stage and the sound, especially the bass, was atrocious. Still relatively a lot of people showed up and the band managed to make a good impression. They have great melodic doom metal riffs but it was singer Patricia Andrade who stole the show. Her beautiful, almost haunting vocals balance between tender “saudade” and madness which she accompanied expressively with her stage moves. A great show from a great band.

Next was Middle-Eastern black/prog metal band M elechesh . Although they also suffered from a muddy sound that killed a lot of nuances, a great show. Something that I’ve noticed about this band: when people talk about Melechesh they always mention their Middle-Eastern style and their Sumerian sources of inspiration but nobody, literally nobody, ever mentions their groove. On the record it is somewhat lost but on the stage the music rocks and swings. Anyway, this band had a great setlist of older and newer stuff and they delivered a great, GREAT show.
Due to a bit of luck my friends and I managed to see a bit of Blue Öyster Cult who basically were on stage doing the songs and afterwards they fucked off back to the backstage. No chitchatter on the stage, no spirit, no fire and I doubt people will remember them for anything else but “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” aka the Cowbell song.
A band that I’ve seen a few times already is Greek death metal band Rotting Christ . Somehow this sounded a bit different than what I remembered. This show was furious, raging and the band made a furious impression.
Remember the piece I wrote about
Sólstafir ’s new album? How the band are slowly but steadily, like a gletsjer becoming a post rock band? Their set pretty much confirmed that. Not that the band had a horrible setlist or received a horrible response from the audience, far from it but if they were programmed for, let’s say, Glastonbury, Lowlands or Pukkelpop, they wouldn’t exactly be the misfit band that stands apart. Still, a great show and ear cleanser after all death and doom. A song that deserves an honorary mention is the gorgeous and emotional “Fjara”

 Originally W.A.S.P. was scheduled to play Graspop but they cancelled to continue working on the new album. Since I don’t really care about W.A.S.P. I was more than happy that Dee Snider was announced as a replacement act. With Twisted Sister Snider has excited crowds and made about a million people sing along with him. Now he was doing it as a solo artist. Although he is an excellent, clever, funny and sincere entertainer, he didn’t quite get the party like he used to with Twisted Sister but then again, TS had been playing for over thirty years and this band for, what, a year? And perhaps the relatively early slot at around 19h was simply too early. Still it was a good show and Snider had an interesting setlist with Nine Inch Nails’ “Head like a Hole” and Soundgarden’s “Outshined”. However, my favourite moment was when he asked the crowded to sing along to “(I Want to) Rock” in death metal style and couldn’t stop laughing afterwards. Give him and the band a year and then you are going to see something. By the way, was it me or did his band look like they came straight out of an episode of The Simpsons?

Next band we technically saw: Epica but they interest me so little that I paid no attention to them.
How horrible must it be to open for Rammstein? You can ask
Emperor who had to do exactly that. There is nothing bad I can say about them, after all Emperor have always been one of the most interesting black metal bands who continued to push the envelope, experiment and reflect upon themselves but when one half of the audience is not listening to you because they are at the other stage waiting for Rammstein and the other half is watching the time in order to leave in time for Rammstein, it must be a huge pain in the proverbial ass.
Now then,
Rammstein ... Even without playing one note they have been weighing heavily on the entire day. They were on everybody’s mind, they were THE Graspop headliner, more than Deep Purple or Evanescene, and did they deliver? Oh mein Gott ja!
You can say what you want about the band but a few things that nobody can deny are a) they know how to write a catchy song, b) singer Till Lindeman is an underrated but brilliant lyricist who knows how to put together a German chorus that everybody from Buenos Aires to Tokyo can sing along, even if it has an ambiguous theme and c) they have the best spectacle, less campy than KISS and more interesting than Slipknot. So even if everybody has seen it before on YouTube, it is still damn fuckin’ impressive to witness.
The band was obviously in a good mood and having a good time, Lindemann literally drew some blood by headbutting his microphone and guitar player Paul Landers. Not all the hits passed by (no “Bück Dich”, “Mein Teil”, “Mutter” or other ballads) but still this was a very good, hard setlist.
Although musically it might not have been the best show (that might have been Melechesh), as a whole yes, this was the best show of the day. Hands down.

After Rammstein’s blitzkrieg, saturday felt surprisingly empty, maybe not so much in the number of visitor but definitely in the artistic field. What was left after the last explosion? Where do you go from there? To answer both question: “booze” and “tent, drinking”. Maybe not great answers but they worked for us. In fact they worked so well that we forget that we had to see the Cavalera Brothers perform the legendary Sepultura album “Roots” in its entirety. And Baroness. And Devin Townsend Project. And Coheed and Cambria. 

In fact the first band that we managed to see was Gojira . I’ve heard a lot about this band. The biggest and arguably best French band at the moment. Maybe even the best European band according to some. Maybe the latter is a bit exaggerated but judging from what I’ve seen, it is understandable. Gojira is an excellent, tight band with a good bit of variety in their songs, a pummeling machine that shows no remorse. No surprise that the band is getting bigger and bigger despite playing extreme, fairly inaccessible metal.
One band that I needed to see that day was Clutch . Remember when I said that Sólstafir is secretly a post rock band lost in the metal scene? Well, Clutch is a blues band lost in the metal scene, even more than Aerosmith. All the songs have that irresistible boogie that made the girls and the guys dance and fuck, there were a lot of both of them to see Clutch! Even in a steaming hot metal dome the feet were uncontrollable, especially during “Electric Worry” and it was just good times, good mojo during the entire concert.
Still the best show for me was Monster Magnet . To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The last couple of years I stopped following the band’s latest musical efforts. It lacked excitement and while it was decent chillin’ music, it wasn’t exactly the band’s forte. No, their forte is heavy psychedelic rock with a shitload of delay. At their best they are the wild, dark, ultra druggy version of Hawkwind, the Mr. Dave Wyndorf to Dr. Dave Brock. And it was exactly this Monster Magnet that showed up at Graspop.
The band came on stage and dived right into it with “Dopes to Infinity”, grabbing the audience by the throat without letting go until after their anthem and closing song “Spacelord”. And in between it was just one great song after the other. No breaks, no chitchat, nothing. Song over, count off the next one and bang! No atmospheric wanderers but all the good, furious stuff. “Tractor”, “Powertrippin’”, “Negasonic Teenage Warhead”, “Radiation Day”...
And singer Dave Wyndorf... He is basically mister Monster Magnet, the most recognisable member and the most important creative force behind the band. Whether or not Monster Magnet is just good or rips the stage apart, depends on him. And while he has had his fair share of (subscription) drug abuse and the come down, he seemed just as young as ever on that stage on saturday. I’m not sure what he was one but it was the right stuff. And it rubbed off to the rest of the band who were playing equally furious. Best. Fuckin. Show. Of the day.
And after that, I was basically partied out. We still saw Deep Purple who, despite having a predictable setlist, did a fine job. “Spacetruckin”, “Smoke on the Water”, “Black Night”... And people should stop nagging that they didn’t play “Child in Time”! In Flames was a band that I’ve seen a few time before but never really connected to me until now. It was melodic and sincere. Normally I would have more to say but at that time I was deadtired. After their last song I went back to the tent and fell asleep.
Normally I’d have added reviews of Steel Panther, Mastodon, Opeth, Evanescene and Primus but what are you going to do when you wake up and find a hole in your tent through which your wallet and phone were stolen? Right!
Not go to Steel Panther but go home and masturbate furiously.

Not go to Mastodon but go home and smoke your leftover stash of weed.
Not go to Opeth but go home and get a bottle of Chateau Migraine from the nightshop. Not go to Evanescene but go home and google “MILF”.

Not go to Primus but go home and try to find your emergency stash.
And take a shower because no matter who you are, after three days without a shower you stink.

- Ivo Viruswithshoes

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