Ragnarök Festival 2015

10-11 April, Lichtenfels (GER)

The end of the world, how we look forward to this event every year! During two days, the world is turned upside down: loud music and lots of drinking – this basically sums it up. The Ragnarök Festival was the welcoming host of your Metal-Exposure crew again, during its twelfth (gods, time goes fast!) edition.

Report by Tabitha and Monica

As always, the journey to Lichtenfels was a true pleasure because of the wonderful scenery. After finding a parking spot for our uglier-than-the-cops-allow car, we settled on the very busy campsite. The weather was lovely, with sunshine and some 20°+ temperatures, so no wonder most people chose to camp first the first time in the year. But there´s no rest for the wicked, so after a beer to get in the mood we were off to the festival hall to do some reporting for you! Unfortunately, due to the long journey and the problem of having a job, we arrived only in the evening and therefore were not able to watch the first few bands – Delirium, Bifröst, Thulcandra and Bölzer.

There had been some changes in the running order. Due to some personal problems of one of the band members, Gernotshagen had been delayed to next year – a real pity, but at least we already know one band to look forward to for next year!

However, this meant that the bands had all been rescheduled, Finsterforst playing an hour earlier than planned. Lucky for us, we were still on time for the Thuringian Folk Metal Band that fits to the festival like beer at Oktoberfest. Because their performance at Paganfest in Oberhausen (read report here) had been so short, we were looking forward to a decent sized setlist. However, due to the length of the songs there´s was only room for 4 songs. They started off nice and smooth with the song “ Zeit für Hass”, creating a good atmosphere, even though the song title suggests otherwise. The accordion, so important for the typical Finsterforst-sound, was a bit too quiet at the start, but this improved after a few moments. Also, it sounded like the front man Oliver was having some issues with his voice, the vocals didn´t sound as good as at the show in Oberhausen. The next song “Untergang” was from the album ..Zum Tode hin, which is one of my favorites.

It was obvious that the band had gained a lot of fans, since the audience was quite large for this time of day. Their new ´hit song´, “Mach dich frei”, was up next, after some comments by the singer on the music video that was released for the song (apparently it is generally disliked, although I don´t understand why, I think it is pretty neat (you can watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLvjCzMrDps- ). This song works really well live, and the performance was excellent! The set was closed with “Fremd”, from the 2012 album Rastlos. Surprisingly, they didn´t play the party song “Försterhochzeit”. It would have been a very nice encore, but alas, encores are a rare thing at Ragnarök! Because we definitely wanted more!

Next up was Equilibrium – new band members, new album… we had to get used to this. The audience however, was in the mood right away! Equilibrium started with some songs of their latest album Erdentempel. Luckily for us, they also played some older songs later in the show, like “Met” and “Unbesiegt”. Equilibrium played a nice show with a good sound and the audience absolutely loved it, but we couldn´t shake the feeling that this was a different band from the one we had come to love over the years.

The loud sound check on the stage next-door announced who was playing next (seriously, what was up with that?) – Behemoth. With a bit of delay due to some technical difficulties, the headliner finally kicked off. It was probably the best-attended performance of the festival – the hall was absolutely packed! A theatrical performance with Behemoth´s usual perfectionism made it a show well worth watching and listening to. Some songs they performed were “Conquer All”, “Christians to the Lions”, “Alas, Lord Is Upon Me”, and they ended their set with “O Father O Satan O Sun!” Behemoth never disappoints!

After Behemoth´s excellent performance, it was time for some very black metal with Nargaroth. The intro was a little controversial, with ski mask-wearing men on stage wielding German Black Metal Horde- flags – but hey, “Black Metal ist Krieg”, and Nargaroth takes no prisoners. It definitely added to the atmosphere and the show was thoroughly enjoyed by the still considerable audience. The band performed “Black Metal killed Mayhem”, a cover of “Mother North”, and ended with “Seven Tears Are Flowing to the River”..and a lot of black metal-style noise. A very satisfying show, reminding us that we should not forget our black metal roots.

The Austrian Harakiri for the Sky continued in this sense and with their post-rock/black metal style music, offered a memorable ending to the first day of the festival.

At night, we were reminded of the fact that it was the beginning of April and therefore stone-cold in our tent. You can only party for so long (and we did our best at the campsite, there was enough to do there) and at some point you have to sleep…or try to. Luckily, the next morning it was dry and relatively warm (though not as warm as Friday) so we were able to make a decent breakfast at our tent, preparing for the long and fun day ahead. After a while, the sun even came out to join us!

One of the first bands was Cryptic Forest, a band closely associated with Finsterforst due to the shared band members. Considering the time of day, it was not surprising that the audience was not too large..but it was disappointing nonetheless . However, a small fan base was present and giving it their all. One of the songs performed was “Kings of Cryptic Forest” from the album 2013 Ystyr. Altogether it was a very decent show for this relatively new black metal band. We wish them lots of fun on their upcoming tour this year!

Bornholm was the next band we managed to catch. They started their set with a new song, continued with some older songs like “Acharon”, from their 2003 album ‘..on the way of the hunting moon’. Even though they had plenty of shows in the last year, they didn´t manage to convince on stage and the performance lacked energy. Having the bad luck to play on the left-hand stage (where the sound was considerably worse during the entire festival) the sound was also not the best. It´s a shame, because we know they can do better than that!

The next band, Obscurity, had also been part of the Paganfest-tour. Their Ragnarök show was just as excellent, with a large number of fans enjoying the music.

We were looking forward to Skyforger, most of all. This band, we have seen many times already, but it is one of those bands that you never get bored of. Having seen them on the Eindhoven Metal Meeting, we were expecting the same kind of raw energy combined with folk elements…but were sadly disappointed. First of all, we were missing the folk instruments that are so important to the Skyforger sound, secondly the sound was absolutely terrible. It got better during the show, but at first even we, being big fans, had a hard time recognizing the songs! Some songs we did manage to make out were “Kauja pie saulis” from the latest album Kurbads. Before playing “Ramava”, frontman Pēteris explained a little bit about the song – which the audience appreciated. We were extremely disappointed however, that the encore was prevented – it very much sounded like they were planning to sing “Kurshi”, which is one of my favourite songs…however, the show was ended abruptly and we were left feeling disappointed.

Next up was the German atmospheric black metal band Der Weg einer Freiheit, who presented a fine show – decent in your face blackmetal to put everything in perspective. Some complained that the 45 minute set was too short. But aren´t they always?

After this, Graveworm gave an excellent performance, but we did not expect differently. We enjoyed the show from the balcony where we had an excellent view of the band, and the sound was not too bad up there either.

Another band that we were looking forward to was Melechesh. Not just us, there was a large crowd waiting eagerly for them to begin. They recently released a new album, Enki, which really impressed, and I think everyone was looking forward to hearing the songs live. Their show at Ragnarök however, did not impress at all. During the first song it already went wrong. They played a varied set of old and new songs, but the sound was not good and after the embarrassment of the first song it was difficult to get in the mood, some people even left. They did make up for it a bit, and when it was time for the last song, “Rebirth of the Nemesis”, we were ready to forgive them and moshed and danced away!

The next band, Moonsorrow, delivered. Their performance was excellent. We really enjoying seeing Moonsorrow on stage again – and the entire set was over before we knew it: one big chunk of quality pagan metal. The hall was packed and the atmosphere was amazing. They only played four songs (well, four very long songs) amongst which were “Tulimyrsky” and “Kuolleiden Maa”, with which they ended. We were sad that the show was over, but very satisfied!

Saturday´s headliner was Amorphis, with a diverse setlist and a solid performance. Not necessarily our band of the festival, but considering the large audience it was a well-deserved headliner and there were happy faces all around. And excellent band for drinking beer to!

The last two band of Ragnarök 2015 were Secrets of the Moon en Negura Bunget. They are both awesome bands, but also with a more relaxed sound. It makes sense to program them for the later hours, but considering the long two days ahead, for some people it may have been a bit too relaxed.

What can we say about Secrets of the Moon apart from “It´s all about that BASS!”. It was far too loud, maybe they were trying to wake us up? Say what you will though, the show was packed with atmosphere and it was a pleasure to watch – Secret of the Moon managed to get their audience to a higher state!

Last but not least, Negura Bunget – or whatever is left of that band, since only the drummer is original. Finally the sound was alright on the left stage, which did justice to the folk instruments. The show was typical Negura Bunget, a little bit spacey, spiritual and folky. Partly the performance looked like rituals, which was of course very fitting to the music. However, it being the last show of the festival, there was a low attendance. Which was a shame overall, really. It was a worthy closing band.

So this was it, this was Ragnarök Festival 2015. Our highlights were: Gernotshagen..no, kidding, haha! Finsterforst, Behemoth and Nargaroth on Friday, and Graveworm, Moonsorrow and Amorphis on Saturday. We had lots of fun meeting all of our long-time friends, watching the Danelag-shows, enjoying some good bands and meeting new people at the campsite. Good food, nice security, decent beer, a fine sanitary (really clean toilets, respect!) and the overall atmosphere was brilliant yet again. Downside was the sound, which was not good during the entire festival. This being quite essential to a music festival, it was however the only point of criticism to the festival. Fix this, and we will definitely be back next year! Thank you for having us Ragnarök!