Stonehenge Festival 2017 (festival review)

Stonehenge Festival 2017 (festival review)

July 29, 2017 | Steenwijk – In the one hour drive to Steenwijk, I experienced all weather types that was expected for today; a bit of sun, mostly clouded and sometimes a shower. Typical Dutch weather so nothing to worry about… Parking is a breeze and the short walk from the parking station behind railway station is less than 5 minutes. The Stonehenge Festival always starts early, so I am on the compound at 9:40 and have some time to grab a coffee and get my gear ready. The first person I meet is Earik Mortem, singer of The Lucifer Principle who is ringmaster (or should I say ringleader…) of the day. After a quick chat, we walk to the North stage for the first band of today.

Inferum (NL)
Around 10 o’clock, Inferum starts off for a crowd of about 30 people. Not bad for this time of the day. They just won the Metal Battle 2017 competition and also the Wacken Battle 2017, which is a great achievement for such a young band. To bad for Inferum it starts raining, but most of the people stay put. After taking the pictures I decide to seek shelter and find it at the hospitable stall of Raw Skull Recordz, a place I had to return to on numerous occasions today. Standing here, I could hear Inferum quite good and was impressed by the variations in their music. I didn’t see much of their show due to the rain.

Not Otherwise Specified (NL)
When the last notes of Inferum has died out, Earik lures everybody to the South Stage, where Not Otherwise Specified stands ready for their set. Not Otherwise Specified plays a blunt type of death metal, which is well received by the attending crowd. I don’t know if it is a technical issue or just me, that singer is hardly understandable. Although a shower passed over during the set of Not Otherwise Specified, there are more and more people gathering in front of the stage, who are quite enthusiastic.

Scordatura (GB)
Scordatura actually comes from Scotland and plays a very energetic and at times rather melodic type of death metal. Scottish death metal, they call it themselves. It’s a pity this set only took 20 minutes, because towards the end the sound got better and the crowd got more in to it. The people in front of the stage got entertained quite well. The first row bangs their head, but the circle pit Singer Daryl Boyce wants, wasn’t going to happen.

Bleeding Gods (NL)
After a long drive from Rotterdam it is time for Bleeding Gods. This band is a little gem in my opinion. The groovy kind black-death-thrash mix sounds very compelling. The unfortunately small setlist is varied and extremely melodic. On stage is a lot of action and movement, which makes it interesting to watch too. There is an album planned, but it is not clear to me when it will be released. Something to keep an eye on! The 20 minutes are over way to soon. This band deserved a lot more playtime! And that is not only my opinion, but the growing crowd is pretty enthusiastic too!

The Heritance (NL)
I’ve seen The Heritance a few times before and with a solid performance with a more than decent setlist, this band nails it every time… The sound is massive with excellent melodies. There is a lot of action in front of the the stage, but it’s contained to the first few rows. Behind that, there are quite a few head bobbers, but not much more. Pity! This band deserves a more enthusiastic crowd.

My Minds Mine (NL)
Well, this is some other story… My Minds Mine is grindcore with heavy punk influences, but with a metal-twist. It’s announced by Earik as “a brick in your face” and that what it is. If you want a definition of the term “barrage of noise”, this band can give you just that, but only extreme loud and extreme fast. The first few rows are having a blast and behind them a serious circle pit is almost omni-present. The songs alternate each other quickly and I decide to grab a bite to eat. It is quite busy in front of the stage, so there are hardly any lines, yet. Later in the day the lines in front of the tokenbooth, extend to almost all of the complete width of the terrain. A thing to reckon with next year.

Deceptionist (I)
More and more metalheads seemed to have dropped out of their beds and fill the site of Stonehenge. The place is getting busy when Deceptionist kicks it off. These Italians play technical death metal and technical it is! The fingers of the guitarists are flying over the fretboards and create insane melodies. I like this complex kind of technical death metal quite a bit. Again a short set but played terrific!

Profanity (GER)
This three person metal band faces some challenges. The sound is not right at the start and it looks like there is some shyness. The latter gets better when time progresses and roughly halfway the sound is corrected, it gets better and better. The songs are pretty fast and catchy and the sound is remarkably full and rich for a trio. Nice one!

Korpse (NL)
It is getting really busy now. Stonehenge is sold out, so there are still quite some people who has to show up, but the place is filling up nicely already. Korpse is a bit of dubious to me. I really like some of the socially critical lyrics of this band, but never understand a word singer Sven sings. The music has superb breaks and slams, but I just can’t get used to the deep guttural grunts. I know it’s just me, because the hundreds of spectators in front of the stage have no problem with that whatsoever and moshing around happily.

Doomas (SLO)
From Slovakia, Doomas comes to Steenwijk to unleash their melodic doom metal upon the, mainly, Dutch crowd. First thing noticeable is the beautiful large ornament in front of singer Peter, which takes a way some of the view, but when not singing, Peter stands besides the ornament, probably because it is blocking his view too. Doomas plays an extreme melodic and beautiful varied type of death/doom metal with some very nice features like a piano (on tape), which makes the set even more interesting. The Dutch audience behaves in a typical Dutch way; seeing which way the wind blows, gently nodding their head. I may not be the best band of the day, but it is great to see bands you normally wouldn’t see in The Netherlands.

Braincasket (NL)
The Dutch band Braincasket has been around for quite some time now and one of their trademarks is the two grunters/vocalists on the band. During a few songs a guest vocalist, in a morph suite and a pink tutu, was added to the band. The already filled staged, was getting crowded when al members started walking and jumping around. This might not have been their best set, but there was a lot of fun on the stage and the crowd just loved it! A lot of fans were present, so a lot of the songs were sung along and the pit was ever present.

Disabuse (NL)
It is hard to believe this band has been around for 30 years and is still killing it merciless. Disabuse is fast, loud and pumping. Right from the very first note the raw thrash is all over the place, but with a melodic twist. There is lots of variation with shredding guitars and pumping bass-drums. Just awesome!

Altar (NL)
Now this is an oldie too! Altar has been around since 1990 (including a few break-ups), so this band knows how to put on a show full of power and speed. Singer Janneke is a very expressive and very energetic vocalist, who is all over the stage. She might not be the tallest vocalist on this stage today, but she sure makes up for that with her voice. What a throat! The band keeps a relentless pace with even dual guitar solo’s every now and then. Great!

Tortharry (CZ)
This band impressed me quite a lot. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t believe this is a trio. The sound is full and detailed and you expect at least one person extra on the stage. This band is quite unknown in The Netherlands, but have released an impressive eight full albums, three demo’s and a split. Now the band name Tortharry is subject to jokes in Germany. Originally the name is a drunk pronunciation of “torture”, but in Germany Tortharry has been often miss spelled as “Tort Harry”, which means “Cake Harry”. Not very death metal-ish… But we’re not here to split hairs on bandnames, but to hear heavy metal! Singer Dan’s grunts sound quite guttural at times, but the extremely varied guitar and drum keeps me enough distracted to let it bother me. I love the groovy melodics of this band and their speed changes, but it could use some spice. Not only the music, but the stage presence too. All in all a great band from the Czech Republic!

Evil Invaders (B)
These guys from Belgium are the metal sensation from our neighbouring country… hell of all of the low countries. This is what thrash should sound like: loud, ultra fast, wild, aggressive and a lot of insanely fast guitar solo’s. Evil Invaders is all that, and then some. There is a lot of interaction with the crowd, which is standing in front of the stage in quite big numbers. Of course their new track “Mental Penitentiary” is played as well is “Rasin’ Hell” wich both are causing some havoc in front of the stage. When everybody is having a blast, there is suddenly a man on the stage beside singer Joe. He is tapping him on the shoulder signalling he’s got to quit the show. With more than 3 minutes to go according to the schedule, the band and the fans protest, but the organisation is inexorable. The band has to leave the stage. That was not a very professional way to do that and the band and the audience are not very happy to put it mildly. Anyway, Evil Invaders killed it with pinpoint precision. Fuck yeah!

Beheaded (MT)
Never knew that even Malta had a brutal death metal band, but here they are. Singer Frank Calleja is impressively tattooed and gives the audience frightfully stares at times. These Maltese know how to move a crowd. Their “in your face” metal is beating down on the whole square and everywhere there are heads moving and hair flying. Even when I grab a bite to eat at the other site of the square during their set, there are a few guys banging their heads while waiting for their French fries!

Hideous Divinity (I)
We just can’t forget the 2015 weather disaster which struck Stonehenge then. The set of Hideous Divinity was cut short to evacuate the place to ensure everybody’s safety. Today is their revenge and from the first song on, they mean business. What makes the set different, is the use of samples, intro’s and spoken word in between, but also during songs. Hideous Divinity is melodic and pumping like hell and a lot of people nodding their heads to this groovy metal from Italy. Great to see them again this year!

Kraanium (SWE/GB/NOR/RU/TR)
This interesting mix of nationalities is very much able to keep the necks of the crowd moving and not only their necks. There is a rather large pit too right from the beginning and it is getting more and more busy in the grounds in front of the stage. The first few rows consist of hardcore fans and they are very enthusiastic. The heavy slamming melodies are impressive and when singer Andy Gnuest throws inflatable hammers in the audience, the crowd hammers away with the band.

Deadhead (NL)
Another thrash band on Stonehenge, so I cannot complain. The Dutch band Deadhead is taking it a wee bit slower than Evil Invaders, but that’s ok… it is still thrash! Let’s not forget, these guys were already thrashing in 1989 and even the mighty Slayer is taking it a notch down nowadays. The breaks are great and the solo’s are impressive. There is a lot of talent in this band and that’s audible. Great set in my opinion.

Absu (USA)
To be honest, it took me almost a whole song to figure out the drummer, Proscriptor McGovern, was singing. It was hardly noticeable behind the cymbals. What baffles even more is, that the drumming is fast and quite complex too! It certainly isn’t the easiest combination and the panting and gasping for air is only briefly audible in between songs when he talks. After a few songs another drummer takes his place and Proscriptor McGovern stands in front of the band. Immediately the set gains al lot more interest and there is happening a lot on stage. The voice of Proscriptor McGovern is a bit distorted to give it a satanic colour and that works out great. At times bass player Ezezu sings along which makes the extremely varied and musically. The use of other instruments and samples like acoustic guitar and bagpipes makes this set extremely interesting. Let’s not forget to mention it is ultra fast! Wow! with a capital “W”.

Benighted (FR)
During Absu it started to rain and during Benighted it started to pour down. Singer Julien Truchan tells the wet crowd that they should have played Stonehenge last year but unfortunately had to cancel. When he announces the first song, the majority of the audience in front of the stage, screams the title with Julien. Right from track number one, the front portion of the crowd is moving about violently and all other heads are bobbing. Julien is barefoot on stage and is interacting with the crowd a lot. Which repays him with singing along with every single song. A large section of the crowd sings or talks even along with the intro’s. Impressive! This is a great set and the crowd is warmed up nicely even though it is raining cats and dogs near the end of the set.

When I seek shelter the stall of my friends at Raw Skull Recordz, it is extremely busy under the stalls with people seeking shelter. After some time, someone tried to be funny and emptied the water from the sagging roof of the stall, right down my shirt and over my cameras and camera bag. Soaked and with no dry cloth left to wipe the water of my camera’s and no dry place to put them away, I have to leave Stonehenge. Knowing that it won’t be dry until after Carcass.

As I understood, there were less than 300 people left when Carcass played. That’s a shame, but hails to the folks who stayed and endured the rain!

Conclusion
Stonehenge is a festival with no pretensions and rain or shine, it is the most relaxed underground festival of our country. The signing of quite big names every year makes it more impressive, but honestly… putting 26 bands on 2 stages in 1 day is just a bit too much in my opinion. Of course it’s brilliant to see that many great bands on one day, but when most of these bands can hardly play 5 songs and bands have to cut their set short, it’s letting your loop run in my opinion.

This year was again a rainy version of Stonehenge, which had quite some sun in the middle part, but in the end is was Stonedrenched as a friend of mine called it. Personally I was disappointment that I could not see Godflesh and Carcass again, but I greatly enjoyed the bands I did see. Absolute winner of the day to me was Evil Invaders, what an energy!

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