Walking The Left Hand Path At Summer Breeze; The “Metal” Tim Diary
September 6, 2016, a year ago
Alas, we jumped ship to Summer Breeze after spending many years at Wacken. I personally missed the German festival season in 2015 entirely, so it was a long overdue pilgrimage to a new home. And sometimes bigger is NOT better, as Summer Breeze is less than half the size of Wacken, which made it easier for mobility and to conduct actual business, instead of getting lost in an annoying cattle call with limited access. And the line-up didn’t suffer one bit.
The trip began for me in Toronto and Mark (Gromen) in Philadelphia. I’d never flown Condor Flugdienst GmbH, branded as Condor, a subsidiary of the British Thomas Cook Group, but still partners with its former parent Lufthansa. Perhaps some of the finest food that has entered my body at 30,000 feet and the service top-notch, complete with unlimited servings of beer and wine (hard liquor was extra though). Check out the photo in the gallery which the astute Martin Popoff compared to the European version of Judas Priest’s Point Of Entry cover! About eight hours in the air, we land at the major European hub in Frankfurt and proceed to get our supplies (snacks, beers) for the train ride to Ellwangen, the closest rails to the Summer Breeze farmlands. So close to four (hazy) hours later, we find our cab that will take us to Dinkelsbühl (about 90 minutes from Stuttgart), so the day has been filled with plenty of Planes, Trains And Automobiles references (R.I.P. John Candy)!
For two reasons, Dinkelsbühl has some incredible history, which was witnessed by the parade of tourists that walked the streets every day with a camera hanging around their necks and in their palms!
The entire town was virtually untouched by World War Two, meaning that that the streets and architecture remain unaffected to this day. Everything from the cobblestone roads, homes, churches and the wall that was built to protect the city still stands. And there may be a simple reason the town remains intact, as that there are no trains near by. So the allies felt no need to destroy it. Why waste a good bomb, not to make light of the situation, but it’s true.
Secondly, and maybe more crucial was the the city's surrender to Swedish Troops during the Thirty Years' War, which lasted in Central Europe from 1618 and 1648 and saw famine, plagues and population losses that approached 50%. Every summer the city celebrates Kinderzeche, a reenactment of the legend that a child saved the town from massacre. A teenage girl took the children to the Swedish general to beg for mercy. He had recently lost his young son to illness, and one of the boys in the group resembled his own son, that he decided to spare the town.
With festivities commencing on the Wednesday evening, it was necessary to leave Toronto on the Monday red-eye, giving yourself a day to get your legs. So as per usual, the day prior to the fest was filled with scattered sleep, supply-gathering (beers, Jaegermeister and snacks) and getting nourished by a local feast (fresh greens, breads, cheese, meats etc…). Happy that we both left some crazy humidity at home, the German weather was sunny and highlighted (of course), by a pleasant summer breeze. And the night’s cooled down beautifully, even to the point that one could see his/her breath.
Day 1 - Wednesday, August 17th
Summer Breeze breathes, both literally and figuratively. The recent botched suicide terrorist attempt by some maniac outside of a small German festival in Ansbach, caused a definitive security flag at Summer Breeze, but not to the extent of other fests, as there was no bag ban. But no glass was allowed on the grounds which was not an issue. “Things” are just as cheap in cans, and the selection in Germany is double and the price is less than half than where I normally shop (picture knife twisting in the back of the LCBO)! From Dinkelsbühl to the festival grounds by cab or easy shuttle, was about 15 minutes. And then after getting accredited, it was another five minute drive. The security was strict, but the line-ups were not that long, most people had arrived and set up their tent city prior. And for those attending the fest, this is the easiest and most affordable option, and part of the whole summer festival experience. But a dry experience is a far cry from a wet experience, and for the most part the rain cooperated. But more on that with Day 4.
Once security is dealt with you realize the vast expanse of these grounds. The massive tent on the way into the grounds on our left was dubbed the T Stage, after the late Germany music biz legend Michael Trengert who had taken care of BW&BK Magazine and BraveWords for years when he was at Nuclear Blast in Germany and then running the German office of Metal Blade. He went on to form Silverdust Records and build Summer Breeze until his untimely demise in 2013. Hence the T Stage, which must’ve taken days to build. But it was a touching moment and monument, as there was a mutual admiration as we had crossed paths many times. A fitting tribute to say the least.
Organizers were still setting up the grounds which meant only the smaller stages were active and the metal market, along with most of the food vendors were still planning their attack. All would be functional on day two. And you know your album is a big priority when there is a booth promoting it!
Musical highlights included the stoner legends Grand Magus and Polish death metal veterans Vader. For a complete synopsis of all the bands, photos and other highlights click here.
After spending the wee hours of the morning with organizers and longtime friends in the biz, we arrive back at the hotel and take part in the obligatory German beer tasting and JBL death metal mosh party without the moshing!
Day 2 - Thursday, August 18th
A new day and the weather is on our side again. Breakfast ends at 10AM, so no matter what time you crash, it’s wise to make this German feast of more fine breads, cheeses, sliced meats, fruit, muesli, yogurt and boiled eggs. A true breakfast of champions. No need to fry up the sunrise in terms of bacon, pancakes, hash browns and other North American heart killers. We’ll let the alcohol do that later! After another crash I start the daily tradition of Jaegermeister shots before grabbing our shuttle and entering the grounds again. Summer Breeze is officially open and there are fans swimming everywhere, eating, drinking and enjoying the four stages: Main, Pain, Camel and of course the T tent.
So our day starts with two gems, Exodus and At The Gates. And despite the fact that Gary Holt is on tour with Slayer (who arrive on Friday), the band shred and deliver an old-school set with plenty of Bonded By Blood moments and the lone Pleasures Of The Flesh tune “Deranged” which was a pleasant surprise.
Many of us at BraveWords are still raving about At The Gates’ comeback surprise At War With Reality, so most memorable of the set were “Heroes And Tombs” and the crushing ”The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)". But Slaughter Of The Soul remains the focus over 20 years later! And it was a nice vantage point above the stage to witness both the band and crowd in ultimate fighting-mode! During the final song, the closing instrumental outro of melancholic genius “The Night Eternal”, I flip singer Tomas Lindberg a business card to get his attention and that is the shot below!
I put my interview cap on next to conduct the ultimate chat session with Entombed A.D. legend L.G. Petrov. It was actually ten years ago (literally to the day) that Mark and I crossed paths with L.G. and guitarist Alex Hellid at the Threeman offices in Stockholm. So the reunion was long overdue and began with the handing over of the jersey, exclusively dedicated to the “bands that built BraveWords!” So along with plenty of cocktails and cigarettes, we delved into the past, present and future of the band. L.G. actually owns the name and logo, and his head is certainly in the right place if you notice his hysterical presence on social media.
I proceeded to get invited on stage (!) under the T tent to witness these Swedish death metal legends in fine form, a dream come true as Left Hand Path, Clandestine, Wolverine Blues and To Ride, Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth are mainstays in these ears! We even reminisce about the time the band held a live (!) in-store at my HMV location in Toronto promoting the latter album! So watch for the conversation soon only at BraveWords!
Day 3 - Friday, August 19th
Given the state of the biz and the reality that record stores are becoming more and more difficult to find, another major attraction at the European festivals is the market areas where all sorts of clothing, jewelry and of course bountiful amounts of CDs and vinyl are at your finger tips. Summer Breeze had no shortage of these stalls and you could meander around with a cocktail and shop to your heart’s content!
As for the bands, this was the big name day with Slayer, Carcass, Arch Enemy, Satyricon, Queensrÿche, Soilwork, Mastodon, Unleashed and Dying Fetus on the bill. Perhaps that is the best reason to budget for the overseas, because nothing really compares in North America.
We start the day early in interview-mode with Queensrÿche’s Michel Wilton as we talk about Summer Breeze being the first gig of the European leg, how the crowds are accepting new singer Todd LaTorre and his Whip Ale. Stay tuned for the chat soon! During the conversation we cross paths with longtime friend Michael Amott from Arch Enemy and I finally meet Mr. LaTorre who admitted he was struggling due to sleep deprivation. But nobody could notice as he truly rocked the parade of ‘rÿche classics “Operation Mindcrime”, “Queen Of The Reich”, “Empire” and the “Eyes Of A Stranger” closer!
Arch Enemy’s daylight set on the Main Stage was jam packed, fans clamouring to see both Amott and Jeff Loomis in their guitar duel with bassist Sharlee D'Angelo. Alyssa White-Gluz commands the stage brilliantly as she thrashes her blue mane wildly!
Another crows nest view was next as I had the honour of watching Carcass from 20 feet above the UK grindcore masters, delivering a career-encompassing set, tops being “Buried Dreams” and “Corporal Jigsore Quandary”. Both Jeff Walker and Bill Steer are in a great mental and physical place these days, aided by the success of Surgical Steel.
With help from my Dutch friends, I was able to watch my ultimate band Slayer from the stage beside their massive soundboard! Although the vantage point of staring at Messrs. Araya, King and Holt’s butts was a bit strange (!), it was still an opportunity of lifetime as I was joined by Ms. Gluz and members of Mastodon. As you can read in our review, it was another all-era set, with plenty of material from Show No Mercy! I finally found hell! And it ain’t a bad place to be! ;)
Day 4 - Saturday, August 20th
We start the day in the usual breakfast haze after just a few hours of sleep and back to crash before our easy mid-afternoon shuttle to heavy metal paradise! Today was a breeze (!) as most people had the necessary supplies and were settled in at the fest, so our ride and wait was mere minutes. And the day began meeting up with an old, old friend as it was great to catch up with Hypocrisy legend and producer extraordinaire Peter Tägtgren who was there with Pain. German scribe Carl Begai mentioned that during his Pain interview that Peter quipped that Bravewords is almost as old as Hypocrisy, as both entities kinda grew up together! The last time we had crossed paths was at Wacken where he proceeded to force feed me absinthe! Here’s hoping that a new Hypocrisy record is in the wings! He also revealed that Pain’s first North American tour is set for early 2017!
Musical highlights today included Pain, My Dying Bride, Napalm Death, D*A*D, Primordial and Katatonia. The last time BraveWords went to battle with Jonas Renkse and Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström (the Jekyll & Hyde brothers given the extremes of both bands!) was on 70000 Tons Of Metal earlier this year and they sang the praises of Entombed and particularly Left Hand Path. I mentioned that their story came up with L.G. on Thursday and you could see their eyes light up with a devilish hue!
The rainy night ended with numerous cocktails, plenty of hugs and sad goodbyes. It truly is family!
Sunday AM after fest weekend comes damn early and moreso this year as the local Dinkelsbühl vendors decided to build their market just after 6AM, a mere two hours after I crashed hard! And this year we were at the mercy of the automobiles and trains. Keep in mind, late August is the end of summer holidays for many Europeans and Sunday was travel day as families prepare for school and fall. So to get back to Frankfurt at a reasonable time, that meant a fairly quick exit out of Dinkelsbühl to grab our train. Arriving late afternoon at the Sheraton right next to the airport made for a more sane evening with friends, a decent sleep and a ten minute walk to our gate (barring any security lines!).
We close the night off with friends in an older part of Frankfurt that has a heavy metal history with bands like Tankard hailing from the area and visiting this legendary watering hole and restaurant (Wie Daheim Im Lorsbacher Thal), but it’s not water they are serving, but the famous apple wine! So it’s similar in flavour to many ciders, but without the carbonation and some choose to add their own bubbles as it were. But the flavour is delicious and the alcohol content could reach close to 10%. No, we weren’t driving home! And we close off the meal with delectable apple fritters! All wine is fermenting on the premises as you can see from the photos. And this year’s harvest will be pressed into wine the first week of October. Perhaps we should make a return visit next month! Anyway, it was a fine end to our journey.
Eat, drink and be metal … preferably in Germany! Til next year, cheers!