July 13-15, Dongberg, Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany
Report by: Tabitha (T), Rosa(R) and Ingrid(I)
Pictures by: Ingrid
Weird times call for rock & roll – this was the motto for the Dong Open Air festival of 2017. We don’t need to tell you what those weird times are about, as much as we don’t need to tell you how to rock & roll. Because this is done every year at Dong Open Air, on the Halde Norddeutschland, the highest hill of the area with the best view over the Ruhrgebiet. Every year thousands of metalheads climb the mountain to join in the greatest small festival of the area. Dong Open Air has been around for 17 years, and we’ve been there for ten of those. We’ve seen the festival grow from tiny beer tent stage to the current large open tent. Yet the atmosphere never changed – and 2017 wasn’t going to be any different.
On Thursday, we climbed the mountain, put up our tent, drank our first (or third) beer and looked over the small festival area with satisfaction and happiness: We’re home! (T)
Death metal at its finest. The girls from Sisters of Suffocation from the Netherlands have gathered quite a fanbase and at 16.30 on the first day of the festival it’s a full house. Frontwoman Els Prins grunts her guts out and reveals her beautiful singing voice in some of the songs. It is clear to me that they love what they do and they do it really well. You can see the synergy between them that leads to perfect interaction between them and the interaction with the crowd. A few emotional moments when they played the favourite song of Bidi, their manager, who tragically passed away some time ago which made it a very special show. Be ready for the Sisters of Suffocation, they are definitely on the rise! (R)
With the forthcoming album “Stranger Times”, that is to be released September 22th. Vulture Industries came to play for us some of the old and some of the new. And while their music shifts from one song to another, people are singing along and dancing and it truly is a weird music party. While Bjornar seems to get some energy out and does so in running, making robotic dancemoves cool again and climbing on crates, the other bandmembers are going up in their own music and that is a surprisingly nice contrast. The crowd, myself included, had a blast! (R)
Next to watch were the Danish guys from Hatesphere. It has been quite some years since I last saw them, so I was totally blanc when the show started. The tent was quite filled by now and the fans and other enthusiasts were with many. The band immediately started off very energetic and this was followed by the audience. They played a very tight and good show and I was quite impressed. By looking at the audience who were banging heads and moshing around, I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed this performance! (I)
The band that I personally was looking forward a lot was the Finnish folk metal ensemble Ensiferum, lovingly called Enska by fellow Fins. I enjoyed their latest album One Man Army and was hoping to hear a diverse set list with old and new songs..and I was not disappointed. All the classics were there – Ahti, Iron, One More Magic Potion, Two of Spades, to name a few in random order. As to the bands performance, they all seemed to be in great spirits and had great interaction with each other and with the audience. There were quite a lot of crowd surfers and head bangers – always a good sign. The sound could have been better..but their showmanship made up for that! Enska, always a success! Perkele!(T)
Friday morning, the day after the first night of the festival. Never a great time to be alive, and a name like “Fateful Finality” seems to poetically describe the feeling and also happens to be the name of the first band playing on Friday. This quite young thrash metal band from Stuttgart actually did a great job at waking up the festival. Being first band is always difficult but they were rocking it best they can. The audience started out appropriately meek for the time of day, but Fateful Finality’s thrash energy is causing the tent to slowly fill up with audience. There is even a mosh pit emerging – quite essential to a thrash metal performance, if you ask me. If you are into this kind of music, don’t let the uninspired name of the band (sorry, but what does that name even mean?) stop you and check it out! (T)
With the last minute cancellation of Atomgott, Misanthrope Monarch is a very decent replacement. With their trashy death metal they got some fists pumping and vocalist Christoph Mieves even gets a moshpit going. Their energy and obvious enthousiasm for playing the songs is clear. Even though the band formed only in 2014 you can see they have this good vibe going together. Who is going to sign these metallers up? (R)
My Friday Favourite! Damn, these women are the fucking bomb. Bringing groovy thrash all the way from Brazil, everyone was in for a treat! The very impressive vocal reach of frontwomen Fernanda, the double bass that seemed to be a red line throughout the set and the lyrics that bring up serious issues regarding our world today. All in all, this was an amazing show! (R)
Okay, what is happening here?! There is guys in different colour camouflage clothing on stage (once you manage to spot them, hehe), and they are making really confusing music and trying to speak German! Hybrid Symphonic Metal, their music apparently is called. Well, War Kabinett came all the way from Mexico City, so I tried to give it a chance. Okay, let’s see..there is a small choir, which is a nice addition. The show is overall quite tight… but the music is just horrible! It is definitely not my cup of tequila, but there is quite a lot of people present in the tent, so apparently Dong did the right thing inviting them again after two years. Well, good for them. I’m off to buy myself an ice cream. (T)
Better be back on time, because next up is one of the bands Metal Exposure has a soft spot for: Acyl. These guys from Algeria (so cool!) and France (well, we can forgive them that) are playing at Dong for the third time already, and rightfully so. Their “Ethno Metal”, incorporating Berber/Maghreb elements with some good ol’ metal yet again makes for a hair and hip swinging experience on the Dong mountain, just like two years ago. The video projections are an interesting new feature, adding depth to the show, but not distracting to much from the great musicians, who are giving their best with choreography, singing and drumming. The interaction with the audience is excellent, and the front man Amine even tried to make the Germans dance (spoiler alert – did not work out so well). We were very happy about this performance, and even got the chance to chat with them afterwards. You will be able to read our interesting interview with Acyl soon, and it’s going to have some funny stories in them. (T)
The Dutch death metallers of God Dethroned have been at it since 1991 and have played a few live shows since 2014. With having their first full-length out since 2010 we were all in for some relatively new live material. Aggressive, dark and fast like we know from God Dethroned. Heads were banged, people were moshing. God Dethroned was most certainly on an annihilators crusade.
Not unfamiliar on the Dong grounds anymore are the guys from Dark Tranquillity. I’ve seen them play multiple times on this festival already (and a lot more often at other places), and like they said themselves this evening: it is good to be back!
I was glad to have them back because Dark Tranquillity is a band that never disappoints and today was no exception. From the first song on, Michael Stanne knew how to charm the audience and they were sold. They sang along, banged some heads and went crazy. The setlist contained songs from their latest release such as Force of Hand and Atoma, but also all-time classics as The Wonders at Your Feet and Misery’s Crown. (I)
Headliner of the second day and maybe secretly also my favorite band and show this year was Iced Earth. Short before the festival they released their new album Incorruptible and I was eager to hear the new songs live. They didn’t play much new material, Great Heathen Army and Seven Headed Whore, but the show nevertheless was great! The tent by now was filled to its fullest and they entire festival came to support them. It might not be fair to say, but I still miss Matt Barlow a little, thankfully Stu Block is one of the best singers there is and gave a flawless performance. New kid on the block Jake Dreyer also knows how to rock the stage, and overall the band gave a great headliner worthy show that, besides the previous mentioned new songs, contained classics as I Died For You and Watching Over Me. (I)
And before we knew, it was already the last day and the first band we watched was Spoil Engine.
I am very pleased to see so many women on stage this year! Iris Goessens is walking around on the stage like she has been doing it for her whole life. The melodic trash metal with distinct 90’s metal influences is a nice surprise for me. The singing, grunting and screaming have a well-timed variation to them. A good start of the day for me! (R)
The third band on the Saturday was the German Folk/Black Metal band Munarheim. There were a lot of people on stage..not so much in the audience. The sound was quite all right, but some of the instruments were not well heard. It was an interesting ensemble and we appreciate the effort of the Dong bookers to make the line up a bit more diverse, but maybe this just wasn’t the right band for it. Some fans seemed very happy about it though, so good for them. (T)
The previous day the lead singer of Copia walked around on the campsite to let us listen to their music. While at that moment it didn’t really interest me, on the stage they blew me away. These Aussies know how to put down a show. Naturally a moshpit is formed and the crowd is going mad. And when the last notes are fading away, I am ready for the first beer of the day! (R)
Something totally different was next on stage. The guys from Elvenking walked on and seemed to struggle a little in the beginning to win the audience their attention. But it didn’t take long before some dancing was seen and there were people singing along. Years and years ago I used to listen to this band, and I still recognised some of the songs, but unfortunately I was part of the crowd that couldn’t get convinced by them today. Thankfully for the band, by the time they were finished most people didn’t seem to agree with me and there were quite some people who seemed to really have enjoyed their performance. (I)
Okay, the guy wears a funny hat. Once you get over that, you discover that the music by Lord Vigo from Germany is actually not so bad. Slow to midtempo doom with good vocals, that sound a bit like Alan Averill from Primordial – which is a good thing. It was a quite solid performance in front of a respectable crowd, although the tent was far from filled. We liked it! (T)
We are Crossplane and we play Rock ‘n Roll! These guys know how to throw a party! From the first song on the crowd is singing along. This groovy, heavy metal gets the majority of people jumping and dancing and even though it is ‘shove a burger in your mouth because it’s 7 o’clock time’, it’s packed! Beers were raised, fun was had. Crossplane got everyone in a frenzy. (R)
Unicorns, dragons, tight pants, metal music, a funny singer – these are the main ingredients for the next band on stage – Gloryhammer. You could maybe call them the substitute for Grail Knights, and the audience seemed to love them as much as they love the Castle Grailskull residents. There was a lot of audience and plenty of crowd surfing. Overall, the show was amusing to watch even as an ‘outsider’, because of the obviously well-choreographed performance by the 5 eccentric and sympathetic musicians. Fun times! (T)
Memoriam was formed as a tribute to the late Bolt Thrower drummer Martin Kearns. With members of the aforementioned Bolt Thrower, Benediction and Napalm Death, the standards were set high. And while I was still envious of the hair of frontman Karl Willets their music came down like a sledgehammer on the crowd. Heavy brutal death the way we like it. With the familiar sound of Karl’s voice I had a little Bolt Thrower deja-vu and I enjoyed the show very much. (R)
Headliner of Saturday and top of the billing was Germany’s famous “medieval metal” band In Extremo – their fanbase is huge and the tent was guaranteed to be packed..and it was. It seemed like the whole of Dong had gathered in the tent to watch the stage veterans from Berlin perform well known songs like Liam, Rasend Herz, Küss mich, and songs from the latest album Quid Pro Quo, like Moonshiner und Sternhagelvoll. There was impressive pyro, fitting for a headliner. The was a lot of dancing, head banging and crowd surfing – a worthy end of the festival! (T)
End of the festival? Every Dong veteran knows, that the end of the Dong Open Air festival is hours after the last band has left. After the stage is being cleared, it is time for the DJ to hit the stage and play hours of rock classics for an audience that just doesn’t want to go to bed yet. Every year it’s the same and every year it’s legendary! After a while, the crew is being called on stage and properly thanked for their energy and their input, and they deserve it. Because 2017 saw another successful edition of Dong – the same relaxed atmosphere and great organization. We can only say kudos – yet again! Now of course there are some things you can nag about – the amount of dixies for example, or the line for coffee in the morning. And however great it was to be able to get cocktails, paying 9 Euros just wasn’t worth it. But these are just details, and the organization is always working to improve the festival experience. You can even fill out an evaluation form here
Our thanks to the organization for yet another great weekend on the Halde Norddeutschland – see you again next year! Until then, every time I’m driving over the A42 or A57, I’ll just longingly look at the weird house shaped art structure which dominates the Dong Mountain and wish it was that time of the year again… (T)