Into The Grave 2019 (Festival review)

Into The Grave 2019 (Festival review)

August 9, 10 & 11th 2019 | Leeuwarden – After a long time of little changes, beside the change from one day to two day, there is a significant change for 2019;

Another day is added, an extra stage is thrown in and the main stage is not placed directly under the skew tower of the square, but on the long side in front of town hall.

With 28 names on the bill, the festival is getting bigger and bigger and questions are raised, that a festival of this kind and size can be held in the city center of Leeuwarden.

Organizer Paul van Berlo makes no bones about it; he wants to stay in the city center of Leeuwarden, but is looking at a large park on the outskirts of Leeuwarden too… just in case.

Positive of this all is, that Into The Grave 2020 will be as big and as long as the 2019 version!

Friday 9th of August
The weather forecast for today is not that great, but it is not bad either. On my way to Leeuwarden there are quite some hefty showers, but it is dry and a bit sunny when I park my car.

On behalf of the municipality of Leeuwarden the entrance is changed to another location and this causes some confusion.
Once at the entrance, getting in is a breeze and after a quick check of my bag I enter the square which is slowly filling with metal heads.

For I Am King (NL)

Timing is everything at a festival so right on time, For I Am King starts their set. Singer Alma is always energetic and bounces around a lot. Every time I hear Alma perform, I am amazed by the enormous power and volume this lady produces.

Technical it is finger licking good, but the sound is not the best in the beginning. This can be caused by the wind gusts, but it can be due too the adjusting of the equipment during the first band.

The square is filling up quite nicely during the set of For I Am King and there is quite some movement in the audience when Alma asks for a pit.

Sworn Enemy (USA)
After a little walk from the LoudNoise stage to the Hardcore stage I enter a parking lot with the capacity of about 800 to 1.000 and in between old buildings, the atmosphere is great.

A few fans of Sworn Enemy and a bit larger group of onlookers are in front of the stage and see the band try hard to impress the crowd.

Even though front man Sal is trying hard to get the crowd moving, only the die hard fans do so and have space to do it too. It is a pity the crowd was a bit tame, but the set was brutal.

Prong (USA)
It is striking how this band still enjoys performing after 33 years! The crowd still needs to wake up a bit, because the reactions are still a bit tame. Singer Tommy and bass player Jason encourage some movement, but that comes only when the more know tracks are played.

With “Revenge…Best Served Cold” and “Snap Your Fingers, Snap you Neck” there are significantly more fists in the air and hair flying about.
Prong is always a treat in my book. Maybe not their best performance in recent times, but is was very enjoyable!

No Turning Back (NL)
Next up is the Dutch hardcore band of No Turning Back.
This band is the more aggressive band of the day and brings a lot of fire to the stage. They jump, move around and their fans respond very well to the demands of singer Martijn. The onlookers need some more time to get moving, but eventually there are some pretty wild moshpits.

Personally I am allergic when band members use the stage to impose their environmental, political or religious view to the crowd. It is lame and it does remind me of the rather pathetic performance of Al Jourgensen of Ministry during Dynamo Metal Fest 2018.
Let the music speak for itself.

Soilwork (SWE)
Although I don’t think Soilwork is a good festival band, I love their music an complexity of it. I prepare for a bit of a let down, because of the wind and the loss of the layering of the music outdoors, but I am pleasantly surprised! The sound is awesome and the band is going for it.

Soilwork is not a band that runs around the stage, but it is not static and stoic at all!
The set is very, very entertaining and is a delight to hear!
I have to hurry to make it to the Hardcore stage, but luckily there is a shortcut for press, so I am in time for the next gig!

Dog Eat Dog (USA)
NOSTALGIA! Yes, in capitals!
This was the first band that got my interest in rap-metal (Run DMC with Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” wasn’t really metal). With John Conner as the charismatic front man, the band is great fun to watch too!

The parking lot in front of the hardcore stage is filled nicely but there is place for some more and there are a lot of hardcore DED fans (pun intended…). Right from the first note, the crowd goes berserk!

Singer John is having a laugh or two himself. Armed with a water gun he “threatens” the crowd and then shoot his bass player in the head right before a solo.
Of course the crowd get their share of water and John is enjoying it a bit too much perhaps!

A bit later on he embraces the crowd by standing on the barrier close to his enthusiastic fans.
When “No Front” sounds, the crowd just simply explodes.
Magnificent!

Hypocrisy (SWE)
The activity on the main stage is up until now a bit tame and with Hypocrisy that is not going to change a lot. No wild position changes, but a lot of diabolical facial expressions by Peter Tägtgren. Unfortunately that is not seen by everybody, but luckily we have the pictures!

The set is entertaining and the band is enjoying their gig as well, judging by the smiles on their faces. I like the complexity and changes in speed and pitch.

With one eye on my watch and the other eye and two ears to Hypocrisy I postpone my trip to the Hardcore stage as long as I can.

Sick Of It All (USA)
The most punk band of the hardcore genre is Sick Of It All, without a doubt. With both brothers Koller on the stage, this is going to be mayhem. Especially Pete! He jumps, runs, turns, sings and playing guitar without missing a note and is the performer of this band.

In front of the stage there is a swirling mass of people and the square is filled to the brim. The band does everything it can to keep the crowd going and that is an easy task.

Personally I loved every minute of this raw and wild performance. In terms of performance, this is the best band of the day! Entertaining as fuck!

It gets even hilarious, when Pete tries to grunt, as he is on a metal festival. This this fails miserably and with a broad smile he excuses himself, as he is way to happy to make such a sound.

Anthrax (USA)

With a well kept schedule, Anthrax could start on time, but there are some minor issues to address and host Jacco has an announcement to make. There is a thunderstorm expected and when that hits this part of Leeuwarden the gig of Anthrax is stopped immediately and all visitors should seek shelter in the parking garage below the festival ground.

With that out of the way, the opening tune is started and the band walks on the stage while the crowd is howling with enthusiasm!
The crowd is wild and sings along with every song and jumps around and moshes ‘till they drop!

Joey Belladonna is the best front man Anthrax ever had. He plays the crowd easily, jokes around with his band mates and sings flawless.

Bass player Frank Bello is all over the place. There isn’t a mic he didn’t sing in and is screaming to the crowd urging them to go even wilder. Scot Ian is iconic. He doesn’t do any very wild stuff like Frank does, but everything he does is noticed.

The only one who is calm and keeps himself out of the center of the hurricane that Anthrax is, is Jonathan Donais, who is playing a solid set.

As I seek a place to get my gear in my backpack after three songs, someone asks me if I got wet and I shrug and say: there is no rain. He points behind me and I see a curtain of water falling down on the audience.

There are not a lot of places to seek shelter so the majority of the people choose to stay in front of the stage and get soaking wet. Singer Joey compliments the crowd that stays in the heavy rain and after 10 minutes or so, the rain is over and the sky clears. The expected thunderstorm never came close enough and Anthrax can end their set the right way.

One day down. Two more to come!

Saturday
After a good night of sleep, a healthy breakfast I walk to my car and feel the wind has picked up quite a bit! I am not a small quy, but the gusts nearly knock me over.
The festival ground is a sad view. Nearly all merchandise tents are removed and the signing booth is gone and there are no signing sessions today.
All in all sad news, but the festival is not stopped, although if the wind is picking up a lot more, it could be unsafe and is has to stop. Luckily the wind behaved a bit and apart from the strong gusts, it all remained within the limits.

Crobot (USA)
Around noon I walk towards the Hardcore stage, which isn’t all that hardcore-minded to day. I’ve heard of Crobot a few times and have a stack of mental notes to listen to this band, but I never came to it.
It is not very busy yet in front of the stage, but the numbers keep growing.

Exactly on time the band walks on the stage, followed by their front man Brandon Yeagley… in a sparkling jacket… He looks like a long haired showmaster of the early eighties and damn… that is just what he is!

Brandon takes over the Hardcore stage, which is now called LoudNoise stage, with his moves and he dances around, making contact with everybody in sight.

It is certainly not metal what these gents play, but damn it! What a nice beefed up Blues Rock this is! I check later that they call it “Dirty. Groove. Rock.” themselves.

The show is fucking entertaining! Brandon throws his mic stand around and let it dance on the wire which he holds and it never fails.

There is no better way to start a (festival) day than with Crobot!

God Dethroned (NL)
Fully woken up by Crobot I walk towards the main stage to see God Dethroned. There is a lot free space, but people keep pouring in and the die hard fans of God Dethroned are at the barriers.

Front man Henri Sattler is not the person to run around the stage, but he is more the person of perfectly played death metal and that is what God Dethroned does.

There is some movement in the crowd, but a real pit might be a little early at this time of day.

Crystal Lake (JPN)
And now for something completely different… It is not that often Japanese bands touring Europe, so Crystal Lake was a band I wanted to see. Being the only hardcore band of the day, there is a bit less pure hardcore minded fans in front of the stage, but a lot of them are just like me; let’s see this!

Crystal lake is pretty violent hardcore and the band is very active on the stage. Singer Ryo Kinoshita is all over the place together with guitar player Shinya Hori and bass player Mitsuru.

Front man Ryo is acting out some of the lyrics and that is quite funny at times to watch, while Shiny is more of the dramatics.

All in all a pretty wild set and the audience is loving it for the most part. The people in the back are more indifferent, but a little nod and tap can’t be suppressed by most of them.

Battle Beast (FIN)
Today is the day of extremes. Walking from Japanese hardcore to Finnish power metal in under 5 minutes is quite a transition, but on Into The Grave it is but a small walk.

It is getting busy in front of the stage and when the band start to play, it is pretty catchy. Singer Noora Louhimo is dressed outrageous. With a dress made of reptile skin and horns, feathers, pins and chainlets in her hair she is quite a sight!

Vocally she is a notch above that. What a voice! As often with power metal, the band is having a blast on stage and when bass player Eero and guitar player Juuso try to reach the highest with their instrument, they even jump to win the contest and have the most fun about it themselves.

Power metal has the most enthusiastic fans which make themselves heard and seen.

Alien Weaponry (NZ)
It is packed in front of the main stage. The reviews of this bands performance on Dynamo Metal Fest a few weeks back is done miracles to their reputation.

The haka is started and this time only drummer Henry de Jong does the dance standing behind his drum kit. It doesn’t take much time before the rest of the band runs on the stage and these youngsters release their mayhem on the crowd in Leeuwarden!

It may be not the most complex metal and a lot of the songs can’t be understand because of the Maori language, but damn what a rush this band is. The teenage energy, combined with pure fucking thrash is just awesome!

Personally I like the songs in Maori the best live. The faces change, the heads go down and the intensity is turned up a notch. Singer Lewis is a bit more stoic when he performs, but Ethan Trembath on bass is all over the place. Standing on the edge of the stage, his bass almost over the crowd he grins, smiles and is enjoying the living hell out of every performance.

I stay as long as I can and have to run to the next act.
Hopefully they return soon and often to Europe and tour our country a lot!

Tesseract (UK)
If you are looking for an extravagant stage show, you’re have nothing to see at the main stage of Into The Grave at this moment. But if you are wanting to hear extremely complex metal played to perfection, then by all means stand as close as possible.

Front man Daniel Tompkins is the most active and visible part of the band and even climbs down the stage to stand on the barrier between his fans while singing.

With bands like Tesseract I have always a bit of doubt. I love the complexity and intensity of the music, but on a festival a lot of these complexity and intensity are lost by the wind, the sheer size of the location, etc.

The wind blows pretty hard and the gusts sometimes take away the sound completely, but I must admit that later in the set the sound was pretty good and that the layering of the music was pretty good audible.

Jinjer (UA)
The Hardcore stage is a bit to small for Jinjer and the little square is filled to the max. Due to the wind, the banners on the fences separating the festival grounds and the public road are removed or folded in half. This gives people who can’t enter the area or doesn’t have a ticket the opportunity to see the performance of this Ukrainian band.

Singer Tatiana Shmailyuk is quite a sight with her tattoo’s, heavy make-up and choice of clothing. Vocally she just is stellar. She reaches from the lowest grunts to sexy clean singing without batting an eye.

Tatiana knows how to play with the crowd and they react to her every wish.
I hope to see Jinjer on a lager stage any time soon, as I think that would do more justice to their set.

Queensrÿche (USA)
It is sad that the wind is picking up a lot, luckily not towards dangerous levels, but enough to influence the sound on the main stage. In front of the stage, there is a small lee side where the sound doesn’t get distorted at lot and I decide to stand there for a while.

Queensrÿche with Todd la Torre is pretty impressive. I haven’t heard a lot of the newer songs during this gig, but the older songs are done pretty decent.

The iconic songs of Queensrÿche like “Take Hold Of The Flame” and “Queen of the Reich” are not the best performed songs of the set. It is obvious that Geoff Tate’s vocal reach in his best years is second to none and that trying is failing.
All in all not a bad performance that was influenced by the wind a lot.

Ost+Front (DE)
I leave Queensrÿche a bit early to get a “front row seat” for Ost+Front. This band is often called a Rammstein ripp-of and it is surely inspired by Rammstein, but has a lot more humor incorporated in their live sets.

Front man Hermann Ostfront the center piece of the band, but Eva Edelweiss has some fun parts too. Sadly the stage is a bit to small for her role, but when she gives away free drinks from the catheter bag filled with a bright yellow liquid, there are a lot of laughters but just a few dare to take a sip.

The music is not the most complex as are the lyrics. The majority can sing along with the chorus after hearing it one time. The atmosphere is superb and although the band members are covered in blood and sing gruesome lyrics, the fun is always there.

Testament (USA)
Another oldie who is still touring the stages of the world and a lot of the spectators are coming for these metal giants!

Bass player Steve Di Giorgio is putting some fuel to that fire by cheering them on to go even wilder.

Singer Chuck is in a good mood and unlike the grumpy mood he had on Dynamo last year he is now smiling and having fun. He has a lot of reasons to have fun, because the crowd in front of him is absolute crazy!

It is clear that Testament wants to leave a huge impression with their fans as if to make up for the previous misfortunes at Dynamo Metal Fest and Dokk’em Open Air.

And it works! The band is on fire and the fans want the old stuff in particular and they get it. A large pit is formed and not a soul on the old graveyard is standing still.

This is what heavy metal is all about!

Lacuna Coil (IT)
Another band that might be a bit to big to fit on the Loudnoise stage is Lacuna Coil. Again the sqare in front of the smaller stage is packed and security let only a person in, when someone leaves.

The wind is now a bit less and the sun is trying to peek through the clouds which warms the bones a bit.
The good part of the small area is, that it is filled with fans of the purest kind.

The stage is busy as singer Andrea Ferro is moving about as is Cristina Scabbia. With her red dress she pops out of the stage as the rest is dressed in black, Bass player Marco Coti Zelati is a remarkable presence too, as he is dressed in black, but the top of his skull painted bright red.

There is a lot of singing along and with the cover of depeche mode “Break The Silence”, everybody sings along. Even security, bar tenders and people on the other side of the fences.

I guess this band will be back soon on a festival stage, but then on the large stage.

Meshuggah (SWE)
Another complex metal band is climbing the stage today, but where Tesseract stopped, Meshuggah is taking off. The wind is less of a factor so that is an advantage, but Meshuggah is a league of their own. Personally I prefer to listen to this kind of metal with my headset on and a glass of Pascual Toso Malbec in my hand.

Still the stage show is not really worth mentioning, although singer Jens Kidman tries to make something of it.

Not surprisingly, there are no mosh pits, but a lot of serious faces enjoying this fabulous music. There is no glitch or error to be found and there fore there is not much to say about the performance. Awesome musically and of you’re a musician probably something to learn from.

The people coming for a metal show enjoy the music from a distance at the bars and food stalls.

Sacred Reich (USA)
Again the square in front of the smaller LoudNoise Stage is stuffed! There is absolutely no more room for any one more and with the knowledge that it is going to be even more wild than everything before this is going to be good!

A short while ago the band dropped the largest bomb any one can drop… After 23(!!) years there’s going to be a new Sacred Reich album!
On this night we get to hear some of the new stuff live and the fans cheers loud when Phil announces the new songs. About a third of the set is new stuff and it is fucking great!

With a new guitar player of just 22(!), Joey Radziwill, the band is on fire and Phil jokes that he has socks older than Joey.

The crowd is going insane, but I am sure Phil, Joey, Wiley and Dave have more fun on the stage. I seems the are overwhelmed by the enthusiast crowd and Phil thanks everybody a thousand times between songs as they are enabling them to do this what they love.

Much, much to soon “Surf Nicaragua” is announced and I stay for a few minutes and then I have to run to the next band and I leave the wildly moving crowd behind.
Damn… The band said always nobody was interested in new material and only wanted them to play the old shit, have done it and it is a masterpiece!

Powerwolf (DE)
Not that long ago, these band was opening shows and festivals and now they are headlining Into The Grave. The very melodic power metal they play is extremely catchy and although there are a lot of people complaining, mostly keyboard warriors, it is very very busy in front of the main stage and when the band walks out on the stage, the screaming in deafening!

The first rows are mainly young metal heads and a lot of them are girls.

Powerwolf makes maximum use of the stage with a lot of props and decoration. There are pyro-boxes on the edge of the stage and during the first song “Fire and Forgive” they go of quite unexpectedly.

The shows of Powerwolf were entertaining, but with this set up it is even more entertaining. Drummer Roel van Helden is the only one who’s keeping is place, but the rest is all over the place.

Singer Atilla Dorn is not alone singer, but ringmaster too! The only critique I think is just, is that there is a lot of talking inbetween the songs. So much, that I guess there is about one third of the time lost with talking. On the other hand… a part of the crowd is enjoying this kind of fun tremendously and do exact what Atilla wants them to do.

It is getting spectacular when Atilla got a flame thrower on each arm and blasted fire columns over the crowd.

The entire concert is a singalong show with Singer Atilla and keyboard player Falk Maria Schlegel as the conductors. Even though the lyrics are not very complex and predictable at times, it is entertaining as fuck!

Sunday
Today is the day the festival is free for everyone who is interested and it shows. A lot of parents take a look with their children and even elderly people curiously take a look at al those weird looking people listening to all that racket!
The smaller stage is not in operational order today, so the relaxed time between bands can be used to talk or sit and look at all the people.

Klone (FR)
It is pretty busy already, but that is because everyone who wants a free festival came early to be sure the got in. Klone benefits from that and with their not too extreem and very musical metal, the newbie’s are allowed to get into the vibe.

The well catered mellow metal of these French gents is very pleasant to start the day with, even though it is three o’clock already.

There are quite some people who brought a rug to sit on and kept seated for the rest of the day. With Klone that is a perfect way to enjoy their music, but later on with Death Angel I doubt they will still be seated…

Near the end of the set I feel a bit of unrest. The mellow music is a bit too mellow for me to keep it interesting. I see a slow circle pit (or you can call it a polonaise) in the crowd emerge during the last song.

Prognosis (UK)
Where Klone left, Prognosis continues and personally that is not the best thing to say. It has a bit of prog metal, but it isn’t just that. I guess it is a but of everything and therefore it becomes a bit of nothing.

At times songs take interesting turns, but get bogged down in too much details which don’t turn out the way I would expect.

Some songs are pretty decent, but the hard work on the stage does not pay off in success. The crowd is uninspired and seem to wait till it is all over.

Pity, because with a little different approach this could be interesting.

The Vintage Caravan (IS)
These Icelanders play blues rock in the seventies style and with three on the stage, the sound is full and rich. Take in account that singer and guitar player Óskar Logi is extremely extravagant and is cheering on the crowd like a mad man. Bass player Alexander Örn does the same in his less extrovert style.

I love this music and I love a band like this. Their music fits the festival mood precisely and with a bit of sun and a cold beer it is nothing short of perfect.

The only thing bothering me, is the fact that the guitar of Óskar is dirty. Not a few specks of dirt, but it looks like it never has been cleaned since the seventies. The positive side of it is, that it keeps his resistance in shape!

The show these three put on the main stage is something to watch too. They use quite a bit of the stage and connect with there audience.

Growing up in the seventies, this band is a joy for my ears.

Death Angel (USA)
I lost count on how many times I’ve seen Death Angel, but there isn’t one time, that these guys ever done a bad performance. Today isn’t going to be one either, although the band is only on hour out of their beds!

With “Thrown to the Wolves” the audience gets a kick in the teeth after the more mellow variations of rock and metal and the crowd reacts immediately!

There is a pit, there are a lot of fists in the air and hair is flying everywhere.
The next hour it is thrash and nothing but fucking thrash!

After the first three songs there is a break because of some repairs on the drum kit of Will Carroll. Singer Mark Osegueda is glad he is back in The Netherlands and tells everybody that it is exactly 18 years to this day that guitar player Ted Aguilar joined Death Angel on stage.

After this short intermezzo, Death Angel continues with “The Moth” and in no time the mayhem is complete in front of the stage. A few day tripper decide this is too loud for them and decide to leave, but the majority just take a few steps back and see the swirling sea of people in front of them.

An hour is way to short for Death Angel, but damn… this is the most high-energy-band of this day and it still rings in my ears!

Opeth (SWE)
Again a turn of about 180 degrees form the thrash of Death Angel to the progressive metal of Opeth.

You can use superlatives for these band, but they outgrow them every single time. Musically Opeth is ingenious and last year I wrote already, that Opeth is maybe a bit too much for a festival, but the free entrance had drawn a lot of fans who immensely enjoy the complex layered technical metal of these gents.

All members are in full control of their instrument and operate it, like it is a nuclear powerplant; precise, secure and very serious!

Singer Mikael Åkerfeldt never loses his cool. When he is announcing the songs, his low enjoyable voice calmly says what there has to be said and then his guitar takes it from there.

Opeth gets a two hour time slot and Mikael tells early in the set that they heard just recently that they have a setlist for an hour. The crowd does not need to worry, as the band knows a few songs more by heart to play. The slot is not filled completely, but it is no drama.

After 3 long days I love to go home and get my feet up.

Conclusion

Three long festival days with almost every kind of severe weather available and still end up with a few thousand smiling faces. That is in a nutshell Into The Grave 2019.

To be honest, I had my doubts about the extra stage and the extra day, but there was no need for doubts. The extra stage is a gem, although the location could be a bit better, but I understand that was the original idea too and this location was the backup plan.

The location of the main stage on the long side of the square is better, but visually it is awesome to have the crooked tower behind the main stage. On the other hand, I don’t miss the sun shining in my eyes during gigs in the old setup.

Three days of extremely varied metal with some really high highlights and an occasional lemon, but that is all in the game at a festival and should not be subject of discussion. Talk, eat, drink during a band you don’t fancy.

The absolute positive points are the clean terrain and the short lines for about anything. In front of the tokens was a bit of a line when the doors opened, but after an hour those lines were gone. Food was plenty but except for the french fries rather expensive.

The organization was spot on and there were no big problems. The bands all started within approximately 5 minutes of their scheduled time and stopped on, of just before their due time. Even Testament! 😉

Rumor has it, that this might have been the last version of Into The Grave in the city center of Leeuwarden and that there are talks the festival is going to a park on the outskirts of Leeuwarden or even a bit futher away…
But then again, there were rumors that Metallica could have played this year, so just let us wait and see!
Where ever it might be, I’ll be there!

About the author

Marc is concert/festival photographer and reporter for PitKings in the northern and eastern part of The Netherlands. On occasion he's also writing album reviews. Besides PitKings he also has his own photography company called Loud Images.

View all articles by Marc van Kollenburg