Gefle Metal Festival 2016 – Gävle, Sweden

Summer time, festival time – that´s at least the case for a lot of metalheads. I for my part hadn´t been at a festival for over 4 years. I had become tired of festivals that got bigger and bigger and tired of seeing the same bands over and over again. This year however, I started to miss festivals a bit and also the fun of photographing bands, so I searched for some small(er) festival to see how it feels by now. Has anything changed in those 4 years? Well, yes and no.
The perfect festival actually came along with Gefle Metal Festival a smaller festival about 2 hours North of Stockholm. Some might think, „wait a moment, Gävle used to have another festival at the beginning of August?!“ – yes, correct. At the very same location used to be Getaway Rock, which is no more though.
The festival attracted my attention for a few reasons, first of all, the location – it can be reached conveniently and Gävle is a nice town. The lineup looked interesting and featured no metalcore bands that a lot of people had become tired of. As a result of this lineup with a tendency towards older bands, the average age of the festival visitors was also 25+ (rough guess).
But let´s have a look at what happened at the festival.

Unfortunately I didn´t manage to get the whole Friday off work, so I jumped into the car at 12:00 and made my way towards Gävle in possibly record-breaking 1,5 hours. However, despite this, it took a moment to find the parking.
If you followed the nice Gefle Metal Festival signs at the round-about, you drove directly towards the festival area. Instead of leaving at the 3rd exit at the .last roundabout, the 2ndwould´ve been the right one – please put a sign there next year!
There was plenty of parking space right next to the camping area which was great. We were however lucky that it didn´t really rain much during the festival, since the entry/exit might´ve otherwise turned into one big mudslide. There was a short walk of about 500m to get to the festival itself. The band exchange for festival visitors however was waiting with quite a queue – 2 or 3 more people exchanging the wristbands at least on the first day would´ve speeded up the whole thing a bit. The security checks after that were smooth and friendly.

Finally in the festival area, there were a few merchandise stands and quite a nice choice of foodstands/food trucks – you could chose from Burgers, Gyros, Langos, Kebab, Pizza and even had a nice vegan food stand. Water was given out for free, which was really appreciated. One of my highlights (food/drinkwise) was for sure the coffeestand. They were making really awesome coffee.

The two outdoor stages were standing opposite of each other, making it fairly convenient to switch and on the side was the indoor stage. The only critic about the stages would probably be, that some bands were placed on the „wrong“ one – leading to the fact that e.g. Vallenfyre would´ve probably benefited more from the dark cosy indoor stage, where as bands as Sportlov or Avatar and others would´ve been better off on one of the big stages. Unfortunately they had to stop letting people in at the indoor stage a few times.

FIRESPAWN (formerly Fireborn), which had been founded in 2015 were playing their last two songs from their debut „Shadow Realsm“ by the time I was finally at the festival area. This „allstar“ band around L.G. Petrov (Entombed et al.) with member from Entombed, Dark Funeral, Unleashed and Necrophobic, played some solid Death Metal (not as oldschool as you might´ve expected when knowing who´s playing in the band though) and were actually quite awesome to warm up for the festival. Would´ve been nice though, if they had maybe played a bit later, but someone has to kick the festival off. Two songs of devil-worshipping later, it was time for the first full gig for me.

Setlist: The Emperor – Imperical Burning – Infernal Eternal – All Hail – Necromance – Ginnunga – Shadow Reals – Lucifer Has Spoken – Ruination

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IHSAHN was up next on the other outside stage and I think the music would´ve worked better on the inside stage. While the former EMPEROR frontman is known for playing all instruments himself in the studio, he was acompanied on stage by a couple of young musicians, which probably where his students at music school – they did a pretty awesome job. His progressive music surely required a bit more attention than some of the straight-in-your-face Death Metal before and after, but due to a nice mix of styles, the audience was pretty much into it. A funny comment I overheard from two festival visitors: „damn, this guy packs more riffs in a short song, than some bands in a whole“.

 

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OBITUARY were quite a contrast to the rather sophisticated Black Metal and served the audience, which was really increasing by now, with some good old Florida Death Metal. John „uaaaargh“ Tardy and the other guys delivered as usual and the hair of headbangers was flying from the first song onward, which was „Redneck Stomp“. When it comes to photographing it started to become a bit „funny“ when we saw just how much smoke they used on stage – a thing that should unfortunately continue on this stage. Apart from this however, „Visions in my head“, „Chopped in half“ and the last song „Slowly We Rot“ where neckbreakers for sure. After this gig the crowd was warmed up.

Setlist: Redneck Stomp – Centuries of Lies – Visions in my Head – Intoxicated – Bloodsoaked – Dying – Find the Arise – ´Til Death – Don´t Care – Chopped in Half – Turned Inside Out – Slowly we rot

The bar area was, by the way, very conveniently located between the two stages. You could take a rest while enjoying your beer and still didn´t have to miss a thing of what was going on on stage. Another advantage of a smaller festival. Even in the food area, at least a part of it, you could still see what was going on.

SIKTH took over and were another kind of contrast program to OBITUARY. Up until I saw their name on the festival flyer, I had actually believed that they had split up or rather, I hadn´t known that they were back in business since 2013. The first/last time I had seen them must´ve been 2007 or so at a festival in France. I had definitely lost track of the guys and were not familiar at all with their new stuff. I was crazy though, just as I had remembered the band! Some of their Mathcore, prog stuff was maybe even a bit too much for the majority of festival goers, which clearly were more into some straight-forward, oldschool stuff. However, the two vocalists Mikee and Justin were complimenting each other well with growls, clean singing and at times almost hysterical/aggressive screams and I was happy to even hear a song from their debut „The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild“. If you have never heard of them and are into crazy proggy stuff, give them a try.

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After that we saw the first band that really started to fill up the area in front of the stage: AMORPHIS entered the stage and rocked! They´re one of those bands with which you never go wrong. Getting back to „what has changed“ during my hiatus – Tommy Joutsen´s dreads. From a photographer´s perspective I miss them dearly, since they were always good for great pics. Don´t get me wrong, the Finns are still photogenic, but now Tommy can completly hide behind his hair.
All jokes aside now though, they started off with „Under The Red Cloud“, followed by „Sacrifice“ and „Bad Blood“. At the latest the great „House of Sleep“ got everyone engaged and the audience took over some parts of the singing – goosebumps as always. 4 more songs left after that and they ended a great gig with „My Kantele“. Awesome gig always, you can´t go wrong with Amorphis!

Setlist: Under The Red Cloud – Sacrifice – Bad Blood – On Rich And Poor – Drowned Maid – Silver Bride – House of Sleep – Hopeless Days – The Four Wisde Ones – Death Of A King – My Kantele

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DESTRUCTION were up next and I admit I purely went for pics this time. I had seen them countless times – but no matter my preference, the German Thrash Metal outfit always delivers. They were among some of the oldest bands playing at the festival with well 34 years of band history under their belt.

While the weather had been a bit undecided during the first part of the first day – small light rainshowers, sun again, more cloudy, a bit rain again etc., it now started to stabilize and get nicer. It however didn´t get too hot, which was honestly the perfect festival weather.

Female-fronted TYRANEX were playing the indoor stage and pretty surprised about the big crowd they had managed to pull while playing almost at the same time like DESTRUCTION. They played Thrash as well and defintetly pulled off a nice show. Vocalist Linnea was spitting out some nice aggresive Thrash vocals and they seemed to have quite a dedicated following in the crowd. Refreshing indeed and I was happy that I made my way to the indoor stage, instead of following a band I already knew on the outdoor stage. And quite honestly, the energy I was missing with DESTRUCTION was definitely there with TYRANEX

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Time for one of my absolute favs at this festival: AT THE GATES. The crowd was huge and the audience was waiting for the Swedish Death Metal legends. The spoken intro of their latest album „At War With Reality“ started the gig and they went all in with „Death and the Labyrinth“. While the audience liked the new stuff, they went off the rails as soon as the clasics where being playe – like „Slaughter of the Soul“ from the 1995 album. Vocalist Tomas „Tompa“ Lindberg was in such a good mood, it was crazy. The whole band seemed to be overwhelmed by the great audience response, which caused Tompa to even throw air-kisses to the audience – you don´t see this too often at a Death Metal gig, do you? However, after this gig my neck started to hate me, you can´t just stand there and watch when „Suicide Nation“ or „Nausea“ are being played. After the end of the regular set of course everyone screamed for an encore. ATG can´t leave without having played one of THE Swedish Death Metal songs: „Blinded By Fear“. One more song, „The Night Eternal“ was being played after than and another legendary gig was over.

Setlist: El Altar Del Dios Desconocido – Death And The Labyrinth – Slaughter of the Soul – Cold – At War With Reality – The Swarm – Under a Serpent Sun – City of Mirrors – Suicide Nation – Heroes and Tombs – Nausea – Eater of Gods – The Book of Sand –
Encore: Blinded by Fear – The Night Eternal

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We stay with „legendary“ though, this day was so packed with old bands, that I felt failr young, considering the fact that there were quite some bands that were older or only slightly younger than me. OVERKILL were up next and had no problems either to get the audience go off the rails. 36 years, not one split and still two founding members in their ranks – singer Bobby and bassist D.D. Verni. They kicked off with „Armorist“ and the audience went wild. Like other oldschool bands OVERKILL surely had no problems find enough hits to fill their setlist and thus this gig was another great one at the festival.
I however really needed some food by now, which is why I couldn´t follow the entire gig from the crowd, but rather from the side.

Setlist: Armorist – Rotten to the Core – Electric Rattelsnake – Hello from the Gutter – Hammerhead – Feel the Fire – Blood and Iron – Coma – Infectious – Overkill – Ironbound – Elimination – Fuck You

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ANTHRAX, again one of those „more than 30 years old“ bands! So much oldschool today, it was insane. It´s been a while since I had seen Anthrax and when I did, Joey Belladonna wasn´t singing, so it must´ve been before 2010. Time flies! Time also flies at this festival, the first day was slowly but surely coming to an end, but first of, it was ANTHRAX´s turn to rock the stage. The entered with „You gotta believe“, followed by „Monster in the End“.

Setlist: You Gotta Believe – Monster at the End – Caught in a Mosh – Madhouse – Got The Time – Fight ´Em Til You Can´t – Evil Twin – Medusa – March of the S.O.D. – In the End – Antisocial –
Encore: Breathing Lightning – Indians – Among the Living

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BEHEMOTH were the band that ended the first festival day for me. In one word: Epic! Every time I see the guys from Poland, they seem to have found another way of making their show more epic, to add more show to the whole thing. They are really celebrating their music. The light during the first three songs was really bad/dark, so excuse the pictures. But I actually really wasn´t that upset this time, since it was all about the atmosphere.

After such an epic gig I was really not in the mood for more and apart from that I felt god damn tired after a long day of work and festival. I´ve been told I missed quite a show when Swedish SPORTLOV played as very last band of the day at the indoor stage, but then again it was also that packed, that I might´ve not made it inside anymore, due to watching the entire BEHEMOTH show.
I guess it´s one of the bands that people are crazy about here in Sweden, but I´m not too sure how much sense it made to non-Swedes.
It was a pity I missed it, but on the other hand, I had made a decision throughout this day, that I would also stay for the second day. Initially I wasn´t too sure if I would be able to stay for day 2.
But I did and was so glad about it!

Day 2 was admittedly less „legendary“ than day one and there were less bands that drew a big crowd, however it was just perfect like this. A lot of people had gone crazy during day one, which was packed with oldschool bands, so a bit of a calmer second day was good.

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VALLENFYRE kicked off day two and it felt again like this band should´ve played later in the day and would´ve been better off serving their doomy Death on the indoor stage. They presented a nice mix from their two albums „Splinters“ and „A Fragile King“ Greg Mackintosh was quite talkactive and mixed the songs with some, at times, pretty dark British Humor – „this next song is about my ex-wife, it´s called „Ravenous Whore“, I guess you can tell how much I love her!“. Mr Erlandsson was unfortunately missing on the drums, due to commitments with his other bands, but his live replacement Waltteri Väyrynen did a brilliant job. „Desecration“ was definitely one of the highlights for me – that song caught my attention and got me hooked. The gig was for sure way too short. Let´s hope that there´ll be a new album soon!

After this the audience should´ve been warmed up for the next band to come: ABORTED. They were stepping things up in terms of speed and serving a big portion of Grindcore. It´s not my cup of tea, but on the other hand you can never go wrong with them. They got the crowd going, moshpits started and the band was going equally crazy on stage.

HOLY MOSES would´ve been up next, but ever since I had seen a gig, where vocalist Sabina was reading off the lyrics, I just thought that this can´t be it, when a band has been around for over 30 years. Wasn´t my cup either way, so off to the indoor stage to catch some tunes of PUTERAEON:
The Swedes are into Death Metal with a touch of horror and zombies. They managed to pull quite a nice crowd inside.

MANTAR were not quite my kind of music. I had heard about them before and know that some people really liked them, but being a 2-man-band at a festival is usually not the best thing. Not that this made them bad, but their rather monotone sound wasn´t exactly something to get me going. Time for lunch!

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We continue with older bands, MISERY LOVES CO. Had been founded back in the early 90s and had split up 2000. Now, 16 years later they´re back and played their first gig since then at Gefle Metal Festival. Considering that they had been on hiatus for so long, they still pulled a crowd that grew during the gig and their Industrial Metal worked quite well. They kicked off with „Them Nails“ and „Kiss Your Boots“ already had some people sing along.

Setlist: Them Nails – Kiss Your Boots – Prove Me Wrong – No Exit – Sonic Attack – On Top Of the World – A Million Lies – Would You – Your Vision Was Never Mine to Share – My Mind Still Speaks – Damage Driven

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While it had been still rather empty in the festival area, compared to the day before, it by now started to fill up a bit more. VADER would´ve almost not made it, due to late flights – a fate that a lot of bands seemed to have shared this weekend. But they made it and they were in a great mood. This Polish Death Metal outfit is also one of those bands with which you simply can´t go wrong. „Wings“ opened the set, followed by „Go To Hell“ and the crowd was enjoying the Death Metal ride. Fronter Peter seemed as happy as always to be on stage. Vader is another band that has been around for over 30 years, let´s hope they´ll kick ass for quite some more time.

Setlist: Wings – Go to Hell – Reborn in Flames – Come and See My Sacrifice – Decapitated Saints – Triumph of Death – Carnal – Dark Age – Vicious Circle – Cold Demons – Silent Empire – Sothis – Helleluyah

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We stay in the 80s, CANDLEMASS was up next and it´s been quite a while for me, since I had the pleasure to see them live. I´m not even sure if I saw them live with Robert Lowe, but I certainly do remember the entertaining gigs with Messiah Marcolin, who made funny German announcements at the legendary Bang Your Head in 2005 (weather disaster, flooding…). The first thing I think of when hearing the name CANDLEMASS is his „Doom mit Gemüse!“ („doom with vegetables“) – don´t ask. All jokes aside, today the Swedes have Mats Levén in their rows and besides his amazing voice this guy is a charismatic frontman that knows how to draw the crowds.
„Mirror Mirror“ and „At the Gallows End“ were welcome warmly. While this gig had been great so far, they had a nice surprise for the audience when Mats announced a guest vocalist and in came Papa Emeritus III from GHOST to sing „Well of Souls“. Massive sound, epic gig!

Setlist: Mirror Mirror – The Dying Illusion – A Cry From The Crypt – Emperor of the Void – Demons Gate – At the Gallows End – The Well of Souls – Crystal Ball – Solitude

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Did I say epic? We continue along this road with another Swedish band: DARK TRANQUILLITY.
I couldnt do anything else but smile´as soon as they entered the stage with „The Science of Noise“, followed by the awesome „White Noise/Black Silence“. This band is just such a source of great mood for me – and when looking around the audience felt the same. One of the reasons is for sure
Mikael Stanne – Hands down most charismatic fronter ever! This guy is pretty much smiling non-stop and simply enjoys being on stage. He´s interacting so much with the audience and the audience shows how much they appreciate it. When my alltime fav „The Wonders at Your Feet“ started, I was smiling all over the face. What a concert! The crowd was as big as it hadn´t been before that day, you could see that people really had been waiting for them! No need to animate them to clap or sing along.
At the end of the gig you could see just how overwhelmed the band must´ve been by the great reaction and warm welcome they had received at Gefle Metal Festival. Mikael and Anders Iwers jumped from the stage and spend quite some time hugging and, shaking hands and high-fiving people. These guys were at least as happy as the audience was about the gig, if not happier.

Setlist: The Science of Noise – White Noise/Black Silence – Monochromatic Stains – The Wonders at Your Feet – The Lesser Faith – The Silence in Between – Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive) – The Mundane and the Magic – Therein – State of Trust – Final Resistance – The Treason Wall – Endtime Hearts – Misery´s Crown

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I unfortunately slowly had to make my way home, so I had to skip AVATARIUM – which were probably also too big for the indoor stage and only snapped a few pics of KREATOR who pulled another big crowd and kicked off with „Enemy of God“ and „Terrible Certainity“. Accompanied by „Phobia“ I slowly left the festival grounds, happy to know that I found a nice smaller festival which was really relaxed and worth a visit the next year again!

Apart from the bands, there are a few other things that are worth a few words and thumbs up.
Plus and definitely worth a mention:
I remember I wrote some year ago when I was at Metaltown Festival in Gothenburg, that they probably had the cleanest Dixi toilets I had seen at a festival so far – I even made jokes about the cinnamon smell back then. Well, now Gefle Metal Festival takes the price for it.
The toilets didn´t stink, there was always toilet paper and they were even that clean, that you could put you bag on the ground or next to the seat. The nicest surprise happened in the evening, when I discovered that they even were equipped with lights. Apart from that, there was hand desinfection.
To some it might sound ridiculous to write that much about a toilet, but the organiser really paid attention to this, so it deserves a mention.

Another huge plus that needs a few words was the free water. You weren´t allowed to take in own drinks/food, but they were handing out free water throughout the whole festival- why should anyone bother to carry around a bottle all day then?
I´ve been to a lot of festivals all over Europe, where they charge you ridiculous amounts of money for something like tap water! It´s no wonder that you see tons of people passing out early in the day at some festivals. But not in Gefle. It wasn´t even super hot, but you could see that the visitors really appreciated the water and the stand was probably the most frequented one.

Security: The guys and girls at the entrance were super nice and even recognized me, when I walked in already the second time. After I had opened my big photobag the girl even helped me to close it again – this has definitely not happened in over 16 years of festivals. Again, small gesture, big effect.

Things for next year:
The signs for camping – If I hadn´t had a look at the little festival guide that was published on the homepage, I might not have found the camping right away. There were signs pointing to the festival, but that was really straight to the main festvail entrance. The camping was more or less one street further, but you needed to leave the roundabout an exit earlier, which you couldn´t know if you just followed the festival signs.
They had already run out of parking signs for the cars when I arrived early on Friday, but it wasn´t really a big thing, since the parking situation was pretty relaxed throughout the whole weekend.

gmf17_firsteditionBy the way – mark it in your calendar! Next year´s lineup already starts to look pretty awesome:
ARCH ENEMY – BLOODBATH – PARADISE LOST – SODOM – DEATH ANGEL – DESTRÖYER666 – TAAKE – KRISIUM – COBRA AND THE LOTUS – EREB ALTOR – NERVOSA.
Tickets will be released on the 1st of September and the festival will take place from the 14-15th of July 2017!

Cornelia Wickel

(no longer active) - reports, photos

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