Full disclosure: I knew nothing about Slovenia. Apparently I was a bit above average because I actually knew that a) it existed and b) it’s not the same as Slovakia. Still, it is hardly a consolation. My ideas about Eastern Europe had been shaped by years of movies and jokes (no, not Borat) so I was expecting something completely different. Although I wasn’t expecting goat herders on the streets, I didn’t expect a country (or at least its capital) to be no different from the capitals of Western Europe or, in some cases, even better.
Day 0 – 11th of July
A lot of people complained, on the forums and the facebook page of the festival, that the camping was opened on the 11th, and not on the 10th (it opened at 00:00 on the 11th). If you don’t really know about the festival, then you’ll probably agree with those criticisms, and get on the “greedy bastards” bandwagon; however, there’s a reason for it: There’s nothing here on the first day!
True, if you look at the festival poster you’ll see that it says “from the 11th to the 17th of July” but this is not completely accurate: The first day is to get settled and the last day is to get the hell out. There are no concerts on the first day and only some of the stores are open. With this in mind, I really cannot imagine why anyone would like to arrive even earlier.
The drive from Nova Gorica to Tolmin takes about 30 minutes. The landscape is just gorgeous, so I really recommend checking it out. You’ll immediately notice the Soca river and its green waters.
Although I really enjoyed the scenery, the fact that today the temperatures are reaching 40º (and it’ll get even hotter during the week) really gets on my nerves. As a full blown idiot, I actually believed the weather forecast, which announced rain and storms… so I brought a waterproof-ish jacket. I realize that it’ll just stay at the bottom of my backpack for the rest of the week.
I’m coming to MetalCamp with some people I met on the festival’s facebook page. When I get to their camp I’m really surprised (and amazed at how lucky I was to meet these people). They’ve truly arranged the place to make it as comfortable as possible. They brought their own power generator, so they have electricity for cookers, coffee makers and refrigerators. Everyone pitched in with €20 for expenses plus €20 for beer. Since I want to buy stuff at the festival anyway, I pass on this last one, happily remembering that I don’t actually drink beer (something that probably made me lose a lot of metal-cred, I know).
Unlike festivals like Wacken, Graspop and Dokk’em, there isn’t really a camping area (although the map says otherwise). It’s more like there are a few places where you can’t camp, while you can do whatever the fuck you want with the rest. There are good and bad things about this. The good is that you can camp under the trees (enjoying the shade that, maybe, lowers the temperature to 30º); the bad is that, as it is expected in the middle of a fucking forest, the ground isn’t exactly even or clean, so don’t be surprised if you have to do some stone removal before you can actually camp.
I do have one complaint, and I think it’s better if I get it off my chest right away. The VIP entrance (the one that we, the press, have to use, even though we’re not really VIP) is really far from the festival itself, which really sucks if you got here by foot and have to walk up a damn hill to get to it. I know, most people won’t even notice this small problem, since the large majority are not press or VIP; but for me at least was really a pain in the ass, especially because everybody pointed me on a different direction. Also, you can only get your pass after 13:30, so if you arrive early, you still have to go down to the camping area, and then come back up to get it.
If you’re not a VIP though, the process is rather simple. Go with your ticket to the Info point, and exchange it for your festival bracelet. Afterwards, you’ll have to pay a €10 deposit for some garbage bags, which you will get back at the end of the festival when you return said bags full (although during the festival you can get new bags if the previous ones are full). One of the things that have really bothered me in other festivals is the garbage, so it’s nice to see that here they at least give you the bags as a way to create some incentive for it.
Be prepared for long queues though; for such a big festival they didn’t have a lot of people exchanging the tickets for the bracelets, something that, considering the heat and the sun, was painful (I gave some sunscreen to a girl whose shoulders were starting to look like beef jerky).
You have to use this first day to familiarize yourself with the area:
- Check the river. There are 2 beaches, a “small” one near the Camping Area A, and another one behind the Second Stage Area. It’s in the latter where big (and infamous) parties are held every night, together with a strip tease and (although I didn’t get to see this) some shows with a “happy ending”.
- The stores. One of the great things about festivals is that metalheads can find all the freaky shit they like in one place. As it is to be expected, here you can find everything. You want a 50cm-tall metal statue of Predator? You’ve got it. A bong made using a gasmask? It’s there. Cock-shaped bottle openers? Yup. €300 boots that will make you look like Frankenstein? Yeah, those too.
- Campers and assorted metalheads. Sure, it’s great to see the bands (and, believe me, there are a lot of them here) but you should also try to meet other people. I’m not talking about long-lasting relationships here, just go out there and mingle. By nightfall the amount of alcohol in everyone’s blood will definitely create the right environment for this.
Day 1 – Airbourne
Here’s a piece of advice for you: Bring an inflatable mattress. No matter how cool you think you are, no matter how much you hate having to inflate it… bring it. Why am I telling you this? Well, I couldn’t sleep at all since my tent happened to be placed over a shitload of rocks, branches and, judging by the feel of it, a miniature version of the fucking Alps.
Since the concerts start after 16:00, you should check out Tolmin in the morning. Keep in mind, however, that Tolmin is higher than Metalcamp, so the walk there can be painful even in the mornings, due to the scorching heat.
Anyway, in Tolmin you can go to the Mercator Supermarket (in case you, like me, didn’t bring much to eat) or have a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants that use Metal as a way to attract the metalheads that are visiting the city. You should also use this time, if your bowels allow you, to use the toilets here. You see, the people at Metalcamp do their best to keep the toilets clean, but there’s only so much you can do when a chemical toilet is under direct sunlight at a temperature of 40º Celsius. I pity women because of this. My suggestion for this is the Hostel Paradiso. The staff is really relaxed and will let you charge your gadgets and use their free internet, even if you’re not buying a lot of stuff (every morning I spent about 2 hours there drinking juice and practicing the one Slovenian word I know that is not an insult to your mother: Hvala). If you need some camping supplies, you can also check out the sports store on the second floor of the Mercator, next to the Hostel Paradiso (where I bought my life-saving inflatable mattress and a pillow) as well as the Army Store that’s just across the street from the Tourist Information Office.
The bands for this first day of metal are top notch, with Airbourne as the headliner for the main stage.
Brujeria is not really a favorite of mine; as a matter of fact, I fail to find them appealing, and actually find their whole behavior a bit obnoxious since, at least in my opinion, it seems to draw its inspiration from every single Mexican stereotype they could find (the only thing missing was a siesta and some sombreros). Nevertheless, they get the crowd going, particularly a Slovenian guy I met who kept calling me “Carnal” once he found out I’m from South America. Machete in hand, Juan Brujo and his crew manage to get some moshing going on, despite the 44º temperature that is driving everyone insane.
Arch Enemy gives an outstanding performance, although I’m a bit annoyed by how preachy they’ve become with their new “hurr we’re anarchist” persona since, at least for me, it seems like a way to attract kids with anger issues. The fact that they’re also wearing matching uniforms doesn’t help their case, since that reminds me of Slipknot, something that simply shouldn’t happen. The high point is, of course, We Will Rise, with insane amounts of moshing and crowd surfing.
Airbourne isn’t a band I’m too familiar with. As a matter of fact I fail to understand why they keep being booked as headliners for festivals such as Metalcamp, Wacken and Graspop. A friend commented that “they’re like a copy of AC/DC, and for some reason people are treating them as if they were the real thing”. I can’t complain about the show though, since it was very entertaining, with Joel O’Keeffe climbing on one of the sides of the stage, with his guitar, so he could play from there.
Death Angel was outstanding. Although they’re not really a “visual” band, in the sense that they have a rather simple stage-show, Mark Osegueda really goes out of his way to look enthusiastic and to win the audience. The band finished with a superb rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven or Hell”, in which Osegueda’s voice became indistinct from that of Dio (something that makes you wonder why they didn’t at least consider him for the, allegedly, meal ticket that is Dio’s Disciples)
Day 2 – Wintersun
Another day in paradise. A headbanger’s paradise that is. After my daily visit to Tolmin, I get back to the camping area and, having covered myself in sunscreen, visit the river.
This is an important point. Bring sunscreen and use it. I know, it’s a pain in the ass to do it, especially if you do it inside the tent, since after 8 a.m. it’s probably a sauna; however, it’s definitely worth it. I saw countless people whose skin made them look as if they had recently been discharged from a hospital’s burned victims unit.
On the way to the beach (as well as on the entrance to the festival area) a guard will stop you to check if you’re carrying any booze with you. They have to maintain the monopoly somehow.
With temperatures over 40º, you’d expect the river to be in just the right temperature, not too cold and not too hot. Well, you’d be wrong. The water is insanely cold, so much that at first it feels hard to breathe while you’re swimming.
The mainstage starts at 5:00 PM, with bands of increasing importance, from the Slovenian band Brezno to the headliner Wintersun.
Personally, I’m interested in 4 bands today, Katatonia, Legion of the Damned, Wintersun and Mastodon. While I am not disappointed by any of them (except by Wintersun, which doesn’t really live up to my expectations) Mastodon really surprises me. The band puts up a really great show and with enough energy to make all the metalheads jump, sing and mosh, despite being the closing act at 00:05.
Here I should admit something. I didn’t go to the second stage too often. It wasn’t only that I didn’t really know a lot of the bands that were playing there, but also that, most of the time, there billing on the mainstage was simply disproportionally better, with little or no incentive for me to actually go, except to visit the nearby kiosks to buy some much-needed food.
My day ends drinking with the guys from the Austrian band Locracy at their tent, which couldn’t have possibly been located any farther from the festival area. With a CD in my hand (which I promised to hear, but so far I haven’t kept my word) and cursing the heat and the distance, I walk back to my tent.
Day 3 – Slayer
Ah, finally. The time has come for me to see Slayer, the band fronted by Tom Araya, my countryman. Although my attempts to contact the band’s management had been futile, I was sure that at the sight of my Chilean flag Tom would immediately want to, at the very least, sign some autographs. Yeah well, this was not the case.
The guys from Locracy had been very adamant on recommending The Ocean, which was playing at 4:45 on the mainstage. Although I had planned to spend that time on the river, I show up. I wish I hadn’t. The Ocean is a nü metal band if I ever saw one. The singer’s abilities are, in my opinion, nothing special, and the music is dull and obnoxious.
Trollfest, on the other hand, is a different thing altogether. Despite not being a fan, I admire their energy. Trollmanen (singer) shows up on stage wearing a neoprene beer bottle costume… considering that it’s 40 degrees and that he’s moving and jumping on the stage, I’m impressed at his endurance (which even defies the pot-belly he shows-off).
Die Apokalyptischen Reiter is another band that blew my mind. Despite being rather unknown in some circles, they have a big following in Europe and put up a great stage show. The band members alternate between costumes of popes, priests, masochists and many others. They go beyond the mere aesthetics though, hitting the crowd hard with some take from their recently released “Moral & Wahnsinn” album.
But enough is enough. What about Slayer?
Well, neither me nor the other members of the press have actually seen the band, except for a short glimpse of Tom Araya. We do see a huge number of their crew, who proudly sport their Big 4 passes, in the shape of an oversized pick. Clearly, my carefully crafted plan of simply saying “So, I’m also from Chile” to Tom Araya was not as good as I thought.
Right before their show, Slayer’s manager makes everyone clear the way for THE BAND. No press, no guards, nobody. “Clear the way! Clear the way!” he yells, as he leads the band to the stage. I hear someone yell “¡Vamos Chileno!” (“’Go Chilean!”) and I do the same. I have no idea who that other Chilean might be, but I try to profit from his idea. Pointless.
Slayer’s show is what you’d expect from them. Although I’m sure that the crowd would mosh just as much even if they sounded like crap, their performance is superb. Classics like War Ensemble, Angel of Death, Raining Blood and, my personal favorite, Disciple, make the crowd go wild. From where I’m standing I can see the clouds of dust that form over the pits, forcing some to wear balaclavas
While Slayer is playing I see a latino-looking guy standing near the stage, headbanging. I see that there’s a t-shirt hanging from his belt that resembles that of the Chilean football team. We talk. He’s the guitar player of Watain. The very Chilean guitar player of Watain. Although I’m not familiar with the band (to say the least) I talk with him for a while, as he introduces me to their singer (who didn’t seem too happy with the fact that I didn’t know who he was).
After the concert, without the manager clearing the way for them, I approach Kerry and ask him for an autograph. He does not acknowledge my existence, and just keeps walking. I see Tom. “This is my chance!” I say. I walk towards him, and show him the Chilean flag that I’m carrying. He doesn’t say anything, and keeps walking with his manager. I feel a bit dumbfounded. “Tom… I mean… I have the flag”. “So? You wanna give it to me or something?!” and he walks away. I’m left standing there feeling ridiculous. I was not prepared for this scenario: Tom Araya is an asshole.
I watch Watain for the first few songs, being glad that they didn’t include the rotting pig heads that I’ve heard they’ve used in previous concerts (forcing the first few rows to either leave or vomit because of the stench). I leave before the show ends to go to the second stage to see Milking the Goat Machine. I’m not a fan of grindcore, but I really want to see a show performed by people wearing goat masks. I’m also amused by a girl with the words “milk me” written on her generous bosom (ok, huge tits).
Day 4 – Blind Guardian
Rain. It rained during the night and, believe me, this is not something you want to endure when you’re camping. Why? Well, even if you’re ok with a storm during the shows, few things are as annoying as having to take down a tent that is wet, let alone doing it in the middle of an actual storm.
I’m pretty excited about this day. Arkona, Powerwolf and Blind Guardian are bands that were in my “must-see” list.
Arkona was a great. Masha, the lead singer, is truly amazing. If you see this cute blonde girl walking on the street (and even in some of her promo pictures) you’d never believe that she goes on stage covered in wolf pelts and starts growling songs in Russian. I stumble upon Dani Evans, guitar player of Alestorm, among those watching the show. He brushes off Arkona as “just another shitty folk metal band”. They’ll be playing their own special brand of pirate metal (usually also labeled as folk metal) later tonight, but in the second stage. I notice a bit of annoyance in his voice when he mentions the second stage. And I can understand why. They shouldn’t be playing there. Whether you like Alestorm or not, the truth is that they’ve become famous enough to play here, if nothing else on the slot used by the “lesser known” bands that play around 4 or 5 PM, when most people prefer to go to the river instead of suffering because of the heat.
I miss Suicidal Angels to go interview Powerwolf. I’m surprised by how nice these guys are. Although I only interview Matthew Greywolf and Falk Maria Schlegel, I get to meet the rest of the band as well, with all of them offering me drinks, trying to make me as comfortable as possible. The interview goes well. Matthew remains rather serious during most of it, while Falk Maria makes weird faces for the camera. It’s great when you interview people who are not acting like you’re talking them into a prostate exam.
I’ve been a fan of Powerwolf since 2008, and this is my first time seeing them on stage. It’s a truly delightful experience. I know I’ve used this expression a lot during the whole review but, fuck it, it’s a great show.
As a sign of pointless, useless and stupid protest, I leave the area when In Extremo performs.
Blind Guardian is great. I had never seen them live and, boy, do they rule. It’s funny to see that Hansi doesn’t even try to look “metal” while on stage. He looks just as he probably does when he goes out. I think it’s great. I guess he came to terms with the fact that considering his style of music, particularly the lyrical themes, there’s no need to try to look metal. Don’t get me wrong, I really love Blind Guardian and I think that Hansi’s voice is truly amazing, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s insanely nerdy (something that he made sure to emphasize every time he introduced a song, by explaining what obscure character of the Lord of The Rings it was based on).
Not being too familiar with Mercenary (to say the least) I migrate to the second stage to see Alestorm’s show. I saw them a couple of months ago at Dokk’Em, in the Netherlands, so I expect it to be the same show, but it’s still fun to watch kids go crazy singing about pirates, booties (the treasure kind, not the ass) and mead. I’m a bit bummed because Dani mentioned that they won’t play “You are a Pirate!”, their cover of the Lazytown song. He said it as if it was idiotic to even ask. I guess that they’re going to be too busy playing “Wolves of the Sea” and “Wenches and Mead”. You know, serious stuff.
Be it as it may, the show is fun. They don’t take themselves seriously, so they put up a nice show. Having seen them before, I’m surprised to see that the whole show follows a script. The same jokes, the same intros, etc. I guess you always want to believe that there’s a certain amount of spontaneity in concerts but… no.
Day 5 – Accept
This is it. The last day.
I’m too tired to start too “early”. I take my time having lunch, going to the river and simply wasting time as I wait for the first band I want to see. Despite not being into black metal, I love their shows. They tend to be so over the top, with bands taking themselves so seriously, that it’s great to just sit back and enjoy the ride. With this in mind, I show up at 6:30 to watch Belphegor. I am not disappointed. They appear on stage covered in “blood”, with Helmuth (vocals)making weird faces (which were great to photograph) and, in general, trying to look as demonic as possible.
Deicide was truly awful. Considering that we’re talking about a guy who’s known for having burned an inverted cross on his forehead (at least twice) I expected a memorable live performance. Not quite. Glen Benson got on stage as if he truly didn’t give a fuck. Guitar player Jack Owen did look a bit more into it but, in general, it looked like none of them really wanted to be there.
Amorphis was a different thing altogether. The show is entertaining and Tomi Joutsen, the singer, tries to get the crowd to participate and get excited. Silver Bride, of course, brings the house down.
Accept is a band that I wasn’t particularly eager to watch. I wasn’t too familiar with them and, honestly, I thought that they’d be just another 80’s band trying to milk the last drops of their fame. Whether the latter is true or not, they do put up a great show. Although I didn’t know a lot of their songs (besides classics like Balls to the Wall and Metal Heart) I really enjoyed it. They interacted a lot with the crowd and played some awesome songs.
Kreator was the closing act for the night and for the main stage. It was a great show to look from afar, but not to be in the front rows. As you’d expect from a thrash metal show, the crowd started to mosh as soon as the music started, with some people fleeing the clouds of dust that were covering the first rows. Kreator performed as usual. They gave a powerful show, got the crowd moving and made every metalhead headbang enough to cause brain damage.
Although Moonsorrow was closing the festival on the second stage, I chose to miss it. I went down to the beach, watched an awkward strip tease, with creepy metalheads trying to touch the strippers, and realized that my first Metalcamp was over.
Hvala Tolmin, I’ll see you next year!