Dong Open Air 2018

Dong Open Air 2018 – Paraskave Dekatria Phobia II – July 12th-14th 2018
Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany

Report by: Tabitha, Ingrid and Jori
Photos by: Ingrid and Joni

Metal Exposure’s yearly pilgrimage was due – heavily packed for a long journey up the sacred Dong mountain, we made our way to the unique location that is the Halde Norddeutschland. Together with other pilgrims, we began the arduous climb in our search for deliverance.. What makes this place so special, you ask? Well, it is the location of a unique and ecstatic event – Dong Open Air!

This small festival was first organized 18 years ago, and although it has grown, it has not lost its intimate atmosphere and down-to-earth mentality. It is a forum for local up and coming bands as well as some larger names. And Metal Exposure has had the honor to attend this event for 11 times now! So although it takes some grit to get all the way to the top of the Dong mountain, it is definitely worth it. This year’s motto was “Paraskave Dekatria Phobia II”…honestly, that didn’t mean much to us (last year it was “Weird times call for Rock & Roll”, that one made sense!).

Honestly, the line-up this year was not especially appealing to us There were some interesting names, but most were unknown to us and if known, not our style. But when have bands ever been a reason to go to a festival, right?! But about the bands we would like to report you a bit anyway, so here it goes:

Thursday

We start the festival with two traditional metal acts. First up here is Blaze Bayley, whom we all know as the old singer of a rather famous band, but has been working hard on his solo career ever since. The set list today features a tasty mixture of songs from his recent ‘Infinite Entanglement’ album trilogy, a few scattered Iron Maiden covers, and of course his own modest hit ‘Silicon Messiah’. Blaze delivers a solid and entertaining heavy metal show. His live musicians, who also play together in Absolva, seem to be content with their places in the rather large shadow (both literally and figuratively) of the self-proclaimed king of metal, who is the center of the band in all possible ways. Not a bad thing for sure, since Blaze is one of the most experienced musicians on the festival billing. He sure knows how to work the crowd, and his vocal performance is as solid as it ever was. The crowd reaction proves that there is still place for traditional metal on festivals in 2018.

The good old thrashers from Destruction were next on stage. I was already feeling warm, but only by looking at all the leather that is their stage outfit I felt instantly warmer. Thankfully the festival tent was open on almost all sides this year and there was a nice breeze blowing through the tent. The men from Destruction didn’t seem to feel that hot and totally rocked their show. It has been a few years since I last saw them live and they still don’t fail to impress.

After Destruction something extraordinary happened; it started to rain. Everybody living in Western Europe is familiar with the lack of rain the past month, so a little rain was more than welcome. Because of the warm weather and dryness Dong Open Air worked the entire weekend on making sure there was enough water for the festival goers, thumbs up!

Next up for us to watch is German legend Die Apokalyptischen Reiter. The Reiter performed a classic set including many of their ‘hits’: “Es wird schlimmer”, “Seeman”, “Reitermania”, “Friede sei mit dir”, “Auf die Liebe”. There were some newer songs as well, from the 2017 album “Wir sind zurück”. All in all, the audience was enjoying the show a lot. There were many crowd surfer (also with boats), balloons bouncing through the air, and a lot of shouting and singing along. At the end, the Reiter lost a bit of their momentum, which made the show end slowly, instead of with a bang. But all in all, they were a great headliner for today.

Friday

Hot..so hot. No shade to be found, little bit of cooling wind but not much..it was a hard start of the day on Friday. With temperatures rising to 30 degrees and no shade whatsoever on the empty grassy hill, we suffered. So what to do? Well, there was a big concert tent on the hill, offering lots of shade and cool drink and bands to watch, as a nice bonus. So something happened which is quite rare for us, we managed to watch the first band play: Triddana. Apparently, more people had the same though, or were just excited to see this band play, because the tent was already full for a Friday morning. Triddana is based in Argentina, but they play Celtic folk metal as if they are from the Scottish mountains – dressed in kilts and having a bagpipe as part of their ensemble. And if you are into this kind of music, with Triddana you will get your fill. The four men were performing an excellent show and the audience was obviously enjoying it. Good start!

Next up was the relatively young formation from Bonn, Fabulous Desaster – through unlucky backdrop placement also read as “abulou esaste” They offer Slayer-style thrash of the finest kind and on the Dong stage they performed with a contagious enthusiasm. The first small moshpit of the day was a fact, and the audience was head banging happily. These kind of gems are what makes Dong special, offering a stage for the relatively unknown, to become less unknown if worthy. Fabulous Desaster was definitely worthy!

After a little break (hot, so hot!!) we went to watch Antilles. ‘Antilles?’ you say, ‘but they’re not on the billing of this year’s festival!?’ Well we confirm: you are right. Unfortunately Impureza had to cancel their performance at Dong last minute, and the festival was able to summon the young band from around the corner (Münster) to the hill.
Of course we were curious about what kind of band is capable of filling in on such a short notice and all we can say is: wow! They really amazed us with their professionalism and show. This was no ‘filler’ but a very well done performance.

Next on the stage was returning band Vogelfrey. First time we ever saw this band was also on the Dong festival, many many years ago, and we were curious to see them again. Despite their new cool look, they didn’t seem to amaze me as much as before. Besides the fact that the ‘wow’ factor wasn’t there today, the band played an ok show. They were very enthusiastic and the crowd responded the same way.

Next to watch was one of the shows we were personally looking most forward to: Moonspell. Knowing that this band always has a great live performance, today was no exception. On the contrary, it was one of the best shows I have ever seen them play. Dressed up as a plague doctor, singer Fernando Ribeiro entered the stage and immediately gained my respect because it was at least 40 degrees in there and I would have fainted for sure. The band opened their show with the intro of their latest release 1755 and the rest of the setlist was made up by many more songs of this album combined with classics as Vampiria, Opium and Alma Matter. The crowd went wild during this last one and after the finishing song Full Moon Madness, the show was ended way too soon.

Time for one of the big headliners of the festival: Exodus. This legendary thrash metal band doesn’t really need any introduction, so I won’t insult you with telling who these men are. The Dong audience didn’t need to be told either, as they gathered in the tent to fill it up to te edges to watch the last show of the German leg of Exodus’ tour. Huge moshpits with dust clouds followed. Frontman Zetro treated us to typical American-style speeches (a lot of “fuck”) alternated with Bay Area Thrash of the finest kind. Fucking great show and a great way to almost end the day!

Last band and headlining the second day were the guys and girls from Eluveitie. For a few days it was doubtful if they would be able to make it because a week before the festival, singer and mastermind of the band Chrigel Glanzmann was taken into the hospital, and the band had to cancel some other shows, so we were all happy to see him healthy again on the stage. It was the first time we saw this band in their huge new line up and the Dong stage (which isn’t small) almost didn’t seem big enough for them. The show itself was a bit mixed. The harder and more metal songs were received very well by the audience, but the band seems to put more focus on the Celtic elements and it seemed we weren’t the only ones who weren’t very fond of this, because the longer the band played, the more people left. Even though harpist Fabienne Erni has a beautiful voice, because of her strange articulation we couldn’t understand a word she was singing, despite knowing the songs.
Especially for a headlining show on a metal festival the choice of songs to play could have been a bit better.

Saturday

Rise and shine! A new festival day is here! Heat and dust were still our main companions on the Dong hill, but we would not let that ruin our day. So after hydrating with coffee and beer, we made our way to the stage. Dirty d’sire was going to perform for us, but our expectations were not too high. Because, honestly..popcore? That is how their music was described in the Dong program: a mix of metal core and skate-punk. And if you want to keep me away from a concert, that description will do the trick. But boy, how we were wrong! Because this very sympathetic fully tattooed quartet delivered a show that was going to keep us talking about it afterwards to anyone who would listen. The musicians were oozing heaps of contagious energy, all the while treating us to their unique mixture of rock, metal and – indeed – pop, with very diverse vocals ranging from different kinds of grunting to clean singing. The audience is appreciating the efforts of the four youngsters and reacts with mosh, circle and slam pits. Also the probably earliest wall of death ever on Dong takes place during this gig. The cover of “Don’t be shy“ is amusing and the Backstreet Boys outro is downright brilliant. We were happy that we went to check it out and will definitely follow this promising band of musicians!

Next up for some Dutch industrial metal: The Monolith Deathcult. Their thick death metal with full atmospheric sound do well on CD, so it was a bit disappointing to see their power being a bit lost on stage. The amount of background tracks diminished the live experience, although you can hardly blame them – it is after all part of their music. Quite a lot of audience did show up to watch the musicians from Overijssel perform, and as they state on their website: “(..)The Monolith Deathcult sees the audience banging their heads on the primeval forces of the pounding 4/4 beat.(..)” That they did! And they seemed to be taking a lot of joy from performing, which is always nice for the audience to see. So although their music didn’t really come out the way it deserves, the show was definitely sympathetic!

More music from the motherland was next: Alvenrad. We heard some positive sounds about this ban on forehand but never listened to the band itself so with some curiosity we were waiting for them to start. A lot of familiar faces on stage, because most band members play in other bands as well, so this must be interesting, we thought. But boy we were wrong. Now we don’t want to be all too negative about them, because the music they make is beautiful but hundred percent not fitting on a festival like Dong. Their calm folklore would better fit on a festival like Castlefest and to be honest, the show was rather boring and we didn’t make it to the end.

While enjoying a beer in the shades of the backstage we waited for Drone to start, since they were still sound checking. Now this wouldn’t be that interesting to tell if not for the fact that we suddenly saw guitar player Marcello standing at the beer tent with his guitar in his hand waiting in line to order a beer and sound checking with help of his in-ear, while ordering a beer. After an applause he left towards the stage and we followed because the show was about to start. We were glad that the energy, and crowd, were back in the festival tent and the guys from Drone delivered a great show.

Jinjer has gained quite some popularity the past years, and is on track to conquer Europe since they re-released their album Cloud Factory at Napalm Records. You can’t get around them this summer and so also on the Dong Festival they were present. That they have gained some fans wasn’t hard to miss because the tent was filled with people going absolutely crazy. Singer Tatiana Shmailyuk is a true stage animal and a pleasure to watch.

Highlight of the day were the one and only Dong veterans: The Grailknights. Excited as ever the crowd couldn’t wait for them and a lot of ‘Grailknights battle choir?’ ‘Yes Sire!’ were heard. Although we soon learned that today it was going to be ‘Grailknights Dong choir?’ ‘MOOOOO’.
We must mention that where before the Grailknights always were a lot of fun to watch, we usually weren’t very impressed by their live playing, but today they rocked the stage. They have grown a lot music wise and we were glad to hear this. As always, supported by their super hero songs as Moonlight Masquerade and Grailquest Gladiators, they defeated Dr Skull and conquered back the Holy Grail. Sir Optimus Prime even went for a dive into the audience at the end, and disappeared to never be seen again….

One of Saturday’s main bands was up next – the Welsh band Skindred. The audience showed up en masse to experience this mixture of reggae, metal and punk live. Front man Benji Webbe did a great job firing up the audience and after the show the band even commented that the Dong crowd had been one of the best audiences they have ever experience. That probably says enough about the energy of the show. However. we had to run away after a while because the music was hurting our ears.. so thought Skindred was well received by most of the visitors, it was definitely not for us!

The same goes for the headliner and last band of the festival, German legends Betontod. If you’re into German punk rock á la Freiwild and Die Toten Hosen, this is your thing. Betontod’s show gathered a large audience with a remarkable amount of children (??), but for us it was a sign to get away from the stage as soon as possible. Terrible music.

There lies one of the issues of this year’s Dong Open Air: the line up was really not for us. Sure, there were some gems and highlights – the opulence of Eluveitie, the fun of the Grailknights and the surprising Dirty D’sire, but overall, it was leaning to a more popular type of metal with very little food for the fans of decent death metal and nothing at all for lovers of black metal. That being said, the line up has never been the main reason for Metal Exposure to take part in the yearly Dong pilgrimage. The main reasons are the fantastic atmosphere, the amazing view and the intimacy of the festival – and regarding those, we were not disappointed. So, sucky line up or no, we will be coming back again to the sacred Dong mountain, and we know the rest of the Dong pilgrims will too. Because: Paraskave Dekatria Phobia II!

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