We’re all living in different parts of Northern France. I live up north while Phil (guitars) and Fréd (bass) are located in the south and our drummer, Laye (also in Belgium’s Dehuman) is from Bruxelles. But as Phil is the owner of the Psykron Studio (Mercyless) which happens to not only be the place we’re recording at but also our rehearsal room and headquarters somehow, so we met gathered and left for Stonehenge at 8:00 in the morning for a four hour drive, along with longtime friends, but sadly without Laye who couldn’t make it, this time. After four hundred kilometers and a couple beers (not for the driver!), we’re arriving near the festival location and try our best finding out where we can park our van for free, which we happen not to be that good at but after a couple minutes, we’re there at last!
We definitely wanted to check label mates Skinned and we were thinking we would have a bit of time for a quick sandwich but due to some last-minute line-up change, they were entering the stage right when we were entering the festival area. Even though in a rush, what we got on offer there was thirty short minutes of nevertheless extremely powerful and tight death metal with what would definitely be one of the best-sounding bands of the whole line-up.
Whenever it was clearly stated by the festival organization and weather forecasts that we should prepare to live in an open-air-oven for the whole of the day and the Stonehenge crew made sure there would be water available everywhere, northern Europe is what it is and being from northern France, we’re not that surprised finding ourselves searching for merchandise stands where to hide from rainshowers instead of hunting for some water, while Rectal Smegma are grinding the stage and the crowd is steadily growing at the festival entrance.
We had the chance to share the stage with Firespawn and Entombed A.D. with who they’re sharing members with, at Hellfest and Bruges Metal Fest, we were already used to the nevertheless always a bit surprising difference between singer Lars-Goran Petrov’s jokes and the absolute serious of bassist Alex Friberg but what’s for sure with Firespawn is that they definitely deliver and we had the great pleasure of enjoying songs from both their albums under a bright shining sun.
We already had the chance to see Avulsed live when they were touring Europe last year with Xenokorp label-mates Mercyless and Savage Annihilation and we got to play Frankfurt Deathfest with the three of them so we let Dave Rotten spread gore and brutality over the Netherlands and spent the Spanish legends’ set time meeting, discussing an overall good time with Skinned.
A couple more beers later (not for the driver!) and we’re back in front of the two large stages setup of the Stonehenge (both are at a 45° angle side by side, so you don’t have to move to see one band after the other, which is great!) to check Dutch death metal veterans Thanatos. Yep, I’ve said veterans, because, hey, for once, we can pretend to be “young” even though we, Putrid Offal, started in ‘91 as Thanatos were already around since 1984 (!). Classic songs, classic death metal from start to finish with special guest vocals by Martin van Drunen on some song. Great show!
Let’s now turn a bit to be in front of the other stage and check Gruesome. Being a huge Death fan, I’m curious about their show. Well, a Death rip-off all the way but it’s nevertheless cool to listen to even though it’s ripping Death off way too much for me but they seemingly have a large audience that even sings the choruses, etc. Pro stuff. Just, well… I prefer the genuine thing…
This year’s bill is quite varied with death metal, grindcore, black metal, and D.R.I., motherfuckers! What is fuckin’ D.R.I. doing there you’d ask? Well, they’re setting Stonehenge aflame! Way better than their Hellfest performance and with a setlist made for the moshpit. DRI was there, with its own genuine sound and energy and that was great! Some more local beers (hey, one has to honor his guests, right? And, well, not for the driver, of course!) because it’s definitely not raining anymore and we have to take care of being… hydrated… and we’re ready for the five headliners.
GRAVE make everything they can to honor their reputation and legacy and god knows they success at it! A fat sound the Swedish way, musicians owning the stage with a killer energy, a tight set and raging moshers. We’re conquered!
What to say about ASPHYX? When you’re such a legendary band and you’re playing at home, when you have such a frontman as Martin van Drunen and when you’re in the mood for some Death the brutal way, it’s all about a shared pleasure between the band and the audience and we’re enjoying it from start to finish again, even when there are a couple technical problems with the mic’…
After meeting Firespawn’s Impaler by total surprise, we’re back front stage to check Pestilence which was… quite surprising… The thing is that when you’re quite old-school like we are and listened to those bands since the very beginning, like Grave and others, you have quite some expectations about stage presence, playing and whatnot. Something that has to do with the “school” you belong to (the old one, for us, you got it!). And, well, Pestilence, even though the playlist was great and playing was stellar, had more to do with clinical, surgical, cold tightness of more modern bands than with the rage and fury of what we were expecting. To say the least, it wasn’t a nice surprise to us, even though, again, it’s all a matter of tastes, but we were expecting something… different… from them.
Band after band, night slowly falls on Stonehenge and it’s now Carnifex brutalizing the stage. At least I think they do, because the volume is so high that in fact, it’s hard to actually hear what they really play and it’s to the point I can’t even decide if I like their stuff or no but at least the festival’s audience seems to be into it anyway.
The day was already quite long when SUFFOCATION started to play and even though their set was clearly brutal the bulldozer way, song after song, the audience is slowly leaving the festival, letting them play in front of a half-packed crowd. Maybe after such a long day in the sun and most probably way too much beers (except for the drivers!), it was a bit too much for the audience to handle.
Anyway, this has been a killer day for us all and that’s with no doubt that we’ll be there next year if we can, just like you should, because affordable Extreme Metal Open Air one-dayers like Stonehenge are a rare thing that definitely deserve any Metalhead’s support!
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