Stonehenge 2016 (festival review)

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July 30, 2016 | Steenwijk – Walking towards the festival grounds of Stonehenge, it’s hard not to remember the mayhem that took place at Stonehenge 2015: heavy rainfall, the severe wind gusts and the damage to the stages, stalls and more. Luckily this years weather forecast showed much better! A large part of the day it was very sunny and during the closing acts it rained, but heck! This was a breeze compared to last years experience. With 24 bands on the bill it would take some experienced drill sergeants to let it run smoothly… and they did!

Extremities (NL)
Due to busy traffic I missed the opportunity to take pictures of Extremities, but was able to witness the biggest part of their set. It was not as busy in front of the stage as at Dynamo Metal Fest, where they played a few weeks earlier. The sound wasn’t much better than in Eindhoven unfortunately, but the early risers did get a good impression of what Extremities is about. The people who did listen to this band, showed their appreciation. To start a festival is not always the best spot on the bill and when it is quite early in the morning it’s even harder, but getting the experience counts too and these guys have two major festivals under their belt and I am sure they’re going to rise on the bill any time soon.

Grim Ordeal (NL)
This groovy/thrash metal band Grim Ordeal from Deventer has quite a nice sound and with front man Otto an expressive stage presence. Therefore it’s pity there were some problems with the sound. It appeared to be quite random of what didn’t function (guitar, bas, drums, vocals) and it’s sadly to say that the sound problems kept the engineers busy the rest of the day. Disregarding the technical problems, Grim Ordeal played a nice set of melodic death metal and the head bangers in front of the stage did agree with that.
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Sisters of Suffocation (NL)
Now this was a band I was curious about to see: an all female foursome playing death metal. I had seen and heard some of them and that was quite impressive. Sisters of Suffocation live is nothing less than Impressive! Musically it sounds great and the vocals fits well with the genre. Front woman Els Prins is drawing some attention too, with her bright white hair wit bright red tips. When it comes to stage presence, Sisters Of Suffocation look a bit shy and unsure at times, but I guess that is something time will fix. The last song of their set is really kicking ass and the crowd enjoys the hell out of it. All in all a great performance! A funny contrast of Sisters of Suffocation is when Els Prins talks to her audience. She’s got the sweetest voice of the festival when she talks, but one of the most brutal voices of the festival when she sings. Hopefully this band gets its time to mature, because there is a truckload of potential!
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Facelifter (NL)
After Extremities and Sisters of Suffocation, this is the third band of the successful Metal Factory education of this day. Facelifter is around a bit longer as they stood as opening act on the first edition of Dynamo Metal Fest in 2015. They changed their genre to extreme metal and that is a good thing. Their performance is solid and front man Mike is having a blast judging by his behavior on the stage. The crowd is having some fun too; instead of a circle pit, there is a carnivalesque circle polonaise! Again this set of Facelifter is a great performance and the slightly larger audience is bobbing their heads in approval. To prove metal is for all ages, the guitarist of the band had is grandmother in a wheelchair in the audience. She tapped and clapped almost the whole show!
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Fumes Of Decay (NL)
The weather is changing for the good and the sun is starting to shine. It might not be entirely appropriate with this death/black/extreme metal festival, but the people enjoy the sun and try to empty the stock of beer. The set Fumes of Decay plays, is very enjoyable and varied for this genre. There is quite some action in front of the stage which enhances the metal atmosphere greatly. The whole band is working their asses off and that pays off. At the end of the show it pays off in a cheering crowd and in the merch stand where their stuff is sold out. Good job!

Skullhog (NL)
Now this is something else. I never heard of Barbaric Cave-Metal, but I like it! The the name of the genre as well as the sound these men of Skullhog make. It’s raw and it’s pure and very heavy. Unfortunately there is not a lot going on, on the stage but eventhough it is great fun to hear. Unfortunately there is quite some static in between songs on the guitar, which is caused by some “cheap ass stuff” according to the owner and luckily there is no static during the songs. Although the absence of a show this set is way too short and I really enjoyed it!
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Putrid Offal (FR)
First thing to notice is the double iv drip hanging on the microphone stand in the colours red and yellow; blood and urine? The second thing is, the band members, except the drummer, has blood smears all over them. Now we’re getting there! The guys on stage are clearly having a good time and that reflects on their play. It’s solid, it is fast and there is a great show to watch. Singer Franck Peiffer is very active as is his guitarist Philippe Reinhalter. The people in front of the stage (there are more every minute) are having a good time. Heads are banging and more and more fists and horns are up in the air. Great stuff!
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Antropomorphia (NL)
When the front man of Antropomorphia enters the stage, it’s clear that this is going to be a extrovert performance too. His blood covered face is hiding in a hood of rough cloth in the beginning. This is probably to prevent him to burn to ashes in broad daylight. Besides being a very entertaining theatrical show, this is a damn nice set of metal too! Musically there is a lot of variation and and it is of very high quality. Although some of the subjects sung about doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but their music and performance does! Recommended!
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Apophys (NL)
I’ve never heard of Apophys, but after the first song I am a fan! This band is fast. Ultra fast! Every song is very well put together and played to perfection. Although the sound system is having effect on this band too, it is still noticeable this is some very well put together metal! Front man Kevin has a peculiar way of mimicking and moving about the stage. Mike of Facelifter did it in almost the same way a bit earlier today. Might this be a new trend? But there is more in common between Apophys and Facelifter today; they shared their guitarist and it is a good one! The downside of a lot of bands on 1 day is, that there is little time per band. Apophys is having the adverse effect of this.
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Darkfall (AT)
Next up is Darkfall from Austria. This wouldn’t classify as death metal in my book, but I am not complaining. I like the sound of this band a lot and they sounds really well and have the experience to put down an attractive show. Whether it is because of the non-typical non-death metal of this band or something else, but the audience is not massively present at the barrier in front of the stage and it is not lunch or dinner time yet. It is a pity because Darkfall is a good band and they are having a ball up on the stage. I enjoyed the hell out of them!
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Caedere (NL)
Caedere had a substitute singer today, but to be honest that was hardly noticeable. The only thing which told you he wasn’t in his comfort zone for a 100%, was the fact he looked a bit more at the floor (where some of the lyrics were) than he looked at his audience. On the other hand, some singers need that pose to push the air out of their lungs. Anyway I doubted if anyone would have noticed if he sang the lyrics a bit different than the exact the ones written, because the energy and power of the band (and the singer!) were phenomenal. Musically it’s like clockwork and the audience went crazy.
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Purgatory (D)
This German band entered the stage and within minutes their brutal death metal is blasting over Stonehenge. It’s heavy and there is an lot of head banging going on in front of the stage, as well on the stage. Their 30 minute set went past in a flash of relentless hammering death metal which was welcomed by the crowd with great enthusiasm!
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Distillator (NL)
My personal favourite of the day is thrash metal band Distillator. Their old skool thrash might not be innovating, but is sure as hell sounds damn near perfect and there is lots of action on the stage. Even in the hot sun this threesome is working their butts of to entertain the crowd in front of the stage. The drummer is having a hard time with the heat in the back of the stage but never missed a beat. The screams during the songs make their old skool thrash more authentic (and fun too!). Personally I never get enough of this music and therefore this band. What else to say; stellar again!
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Cut Up (SWE)
As a split off of Vomitory, Cut Up has gone a slightly different way and this is their first gig in the Netherlands as Cut Up. The bright Viking-like hair of singer Erik Rundqvist is almost emitting light itself in the bright sunlight. They all sweat profoundly as they throw their aggressive death metal to the audience. The breaks of their set are great and the audience is banging their heads along with the band. The tempo is merciless throughout the set and you can only catch your breath in between songs.
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Sulphur Aeon (D)
Right from their first steps on the stage of Stonehenge every one knows this band is something different. Dressed up and with pentagram-style signs on the microphone stands it’s clear this band has quite some theatrical elements. This kind of death metal is great to listen to. It is heavy, it is technical, varying in speed and it is complex. It is great to look at too! One of the better bands of the day!
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Skeletal Remains (USA)
This band is hindered by some sound troubles too, but this doesn’t hold them back at all. They manage to drown the audio troubles with their raw death metal. The crowd is having a great time too, there is a lot of head banging in the front ‘till the back. As far as I know, the first mentionable circle pit of the day is in front of Skeletal Remains. The best part of this set is the variation in speed which makes it unpredictable and keeps you listening.
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Izegrim (NL)
Last year Izegrim never got the change to perform due to the severe weather conditions. This year they make up for that and they are here to play a relative short set. Front woman Marloes is having a good time on the stage and the band sounds very good. Little time is lost on talking, so there is more time for music. Quite some songs from the new album are played and this time the sound great again. Izegrim is great in the studio as well on stage. For me Izegrim is probably the best death metal band of the Netherlands at this moment!
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Schirenc Plays Pungent Stench (AT)
It is still quite sunny when the bare chested guitarist/vocalist and bass-player of Schirenc Plays Pungent Stench enter the stage. In a few seconds their killer sound is moving the crowd and mainly the bass-player is having the time of his life apparently. Especially the female photographers in front of the stage had his attention and he is joking around with them. Throughout the set he is grinning from ear to ear and is joking around. This set is fast, fun and way better than I thought of upfront! There is a lot of head banging and there are even crowd surfers and a rather big circle pit. Great set! Great Fun too!
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Wombbath (SWE)
Also this band suffers from bad sound. The vocals are barely audible over the ultra heavy sound of the band. Some adjustments are made and the vocals are better hearable, but it never gets “good” and that is a shame because the band is good. Singer Jonny Pettersson stands out for his beard. It reaches to his knees when bound together. It never hinders him during his performance and it’s a great gimmick! Wombbath does know how to make a metal party and is enjoying the effect they have on their crowd. Much too soon the set is ended and the first few shouts for an encore is heard, but there is no time… unfortunately.
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Necrophobic (SWE)
The plane from Sweden brought a lot of great bands to the Stonehenge festival! Another great band is Necrophobic. Their show is terrific and front man Anders Strokirk knows how to use is facial expressions to enhance the effect. Musically it is a very nice set of black and death metal with some variations on these genres and there is a lot of movement in the crowd. The band was rolling like a train on a track and when their time was up, the just started another song and were cut short. Pity! But the drill sergeant I spoke of earlier, stuck to the curfew. This kind of bands I enjoy a lot; good to hear and fun to watch!
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Cattle Decapitation (USA)
This band was one of the main attractions of Stonehenge and a lot of fans were in front of the stage even before Necrophobic ended. Right at the start of Cattle Decapitation the crow is moving wildly and front man Travis Ryan is encouraging them. The band is going at it and it all sounds well until the monitor of Travis is malfunctioning. He looks angry at the on-stage sound engineer, which turns a few knobs. A few minutes later there was quite some heavy feedback on his monitor and Travis lost it. He picks up the monitor and tries to throw the thing towards the technician, but it’s quite heavy and there are cables attached to it so it falls at his feet on the stage. Everyone on the stage is in shock and there is quite some turmoil in front of the stage too. When the song is over, Travis wants to give the technician his piece of mind, but instead of using words he tried to get physical and when he is pushed away he tries a second time. Only when a senior technician grabs him and tells him what he is here for he angrily walks away and continues the set with a broken monitor. I agree with him the sound was not perfect, but all bands had to put up with that. I understand that you get pissed off when things are going wrong, but violence is always the wrong choice. There is no way to condone this kind of behavior. I hope he made apologies to the on-stage engineer and the organization of Stonehenge.
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Misery Index (USA)
Misery Index had some sound problems on their stage right from the beginning too, but they handled it in a bit more mature way. They stopped the set and adjusted the monitors and when it was (just) good enough they went on with their show. That is how it should be done. This is one of the bigger names and it shows. It’s busy in front of the stage and all the way to the back there are heads banging. In the front the crowd is going crazy and circle pits emerge constantly and the band is going at it like madmen. Great show!
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Immolation (USA)
It’s getting dark and it starts to rain when Immolation is starting their show. It seems like the machines which produce the smoke on the stage are stuck at full “on”, because there is hardly a thing to see at times. Luckily with the rain, there is some wind too. Singer Ross Dolan cheerfully tells the crowd they lost some stuff on their way in and a guitar player too. To me it is not very audible there is a guitar player missing, but then again, I don’t spin that much records of Immolation. The weather and the lost guitar player didn’t bother the rest of the band a bit. They go at it with all their might. The crowd is going berserk in the quite heavy rain. The rain adds some danger to circle pit at this point. Stonehenge is held on a parking lot and the pavement is getting a bit slippery.
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Dying Fetus (USA)
This band has the honour to close this years Stonehenge Festival and vice versa. Sean Beasley and his colleges play with all their power and some power that is! Dying Fetus starts off fierce and loud and even while it is raining quite heavy now, the moshpit is filled to the brim. Some fall quite hard on the pavement, but in true metal spirit they’re swiftly picked up and the mosh can continue! The band never drops its energy levels a bit and roars through their set like a freight train gone wild. Now this is the way to end a Festival! What a band!
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Conclusion
First my compliments to the drill-sergeant who got all the bands play on time. With 24 bands on the bill on two stages there are some military management skills needed! The rest of the festival was well organized too. There were hardly any lines anywhere at all and there was enough space for everybody. The biggest issue of the day was the quality of the sound system or the settings of the sound system. It might be caused by the lack of time between bands to get it set-up right.
30-40 minutes to break up a stage, build up the next and perform a sound check might be a bit too ambitious.

My personal opinion is, that after hearing non-stop death/black metal, after 75% of the bands the difference is sometimes hard to hear. I would prefer a few bands less so there is time to socialize and relax. This might give the stage hands some extra time to get the stages ready and the bands to do a proper soundcheck. On the other hand Stonehenge is famous for their large list of bands and it is the nicest death/black metal festivals of the Netherlands. It is always a good place to be and a superb atmosphere. I’ll be there next year!

More about Stonehenge
www.pitkings.nl/tag/stonehenge
www.facebook.com/StonehengeFestival

About the author

Marc is concert/festival photographer for PitKings in the north, mid and east part of The Netherlands. He also has his own photography company called Loud Images.

View all articles by Marc van Kollenburg