Dokk’em Open Air 2016

Dokkum, Friesland, Netherlands
June 24 & 25 2016
Review by: Wouter (W), Ingrid (I) & Laetitia (L)
Pictures by: Wouter & Ingrid

Dokk’em Open Air – my favorite and only true (as in: with camping and proper atmosphere) open air festival in the Netherlands. Last year we had a blast, so I was anticipating much the same. Though the lineup this year was less interesting to me personally, the promise of some proper Frysian partying and muddified-metal beers made not going not much of an option. Arrival was on a warm and humid evening, with a pre-party of Rammstein cover band Vanstein and tireless blues/hardrockers ZZ Tops. Indeed a nice evening to warm up the spirits, while literally the rest of the Netherlands drowned under the rain that never quite hit Dokk’m (although the neighboring villages may not have been so lucky, considering the weather radar images). Perhaps the Old Gods were happy to see only Dokkum submersed in metal music instead of rain. (W)

Each year, the DOA organization tries to book at least one local Frysian band. This year they managed to book two, with 13 Steps being the opening act on (very mild hung-over) Friday. Although hardcore/grindcore is definitely not my type of metal, these guys did manage to entertain both musically as with their stage performance. Especially the dual vocals combined with a nice groovy feel to the music managed to grip me more than I expected.(W)

Our Southerly Belgian neighbors, a country not unknown for some good quality acts (Saille, Evil Invaders, Amenra, Wiegedood) this time spewed forth (or North) the female fronted Bliksem. Thrash/Death metal with a melodic yet aggressive feel to it. Think of it as an underappreciated Arch Enemy, who have cut down on the overly present Swedish guitar solos. Nonetheless a solid play with a hugely articulate and funny guitarist, making Hetfield-clownesque face all throughout the show. (W)

Again? Yes, again. I lost count of how many Heidevolk shows I have seen, but here they were, again. And of course, an opportunity for an ode to the Frysian history with Koning Radboud was not neglected, next to the (almost) must-play songs Nehalenia, Saksenland and newer songs like Urth and Hallen van Mijn Vaderen. Despite the line-up changes we have seen in the last three years or so, the live performance still rocked (even more than old shows?). Both musically and visually: an infective swinging stage performance by all members, Heidevolk is definitely a live band still worth seeing. And losing his in-ear monitors (so no click-track or instruments) due to a stuck shirt didn’t matter to drummer Joost, who steadily played on after getting rid of his by-now useless wires. (W)

Evolution or shift in taste was definitely the case for me when witnessing Primordial on Dokk’em. A band I have likewise seen many times, but never gripped me, let alone carried me away. However, after seeing Alan Averill with his side project Dread Sovereign, I got very enthusiastic with both his live performance (gestures and stances and all) as well as the complete show. Aside from that, his music was (and is) very well made, so I decided to give Primordial another try after being bored by them earlier many times over. Indeed has my taste evolved: what an awesome play. The music of Primordial still has some nooks and hooks that are challenging for me to digest wholly, but this makes for an attentive listen. Where Greater Men Have Fallen and Rome Burns are the songs that stuck to me, yet the complete show, especially Alans’ performance, still gives me fond feelings and slight goose bumps thinking back on it. Kuddos for the fact they managed to give such a play with after just arriving with a huge delay our national airport, which received a nice cynical “And fuck you, Schiphol” from the front man. (W)

Masters of both melodic/groove and metalcore, Swedish Soilwork put up a solid play for an assembled collection of enthusiastic (and a selection getting slightly drunk) fans, who waited considerably before the sound check was done. In the last sunlight of this summer evening they played a nice mix of new and old, with opener The Ride Majestic as well as older work. (W)

Last on stage today were the thrashers of Testament. After a long sound check that took half an hour longer than planned, and the installation of some extra lights the band brought with them, they finally opened up their show with Over The Wall. But before the song was even finished, the power went down and we had to wait a few minutes before the show restarted and the band took some time to interact with their fans. The second try didn’t last long, because the power went down within minutes again. The band didn’t give up and gave it a third try but this time we heard only half of the instruments and no vocals. But as soon as the sound was fixed, the power went down again. What was left, was a hopeless looking band on the main stage. But Testament kept their spirits high and after asking the crew if there wasn’t another stage they could perform on, it was decided that the band would continue their show on the much much smaller Party Stage. After a short installation the band, that barely fitted on this stage, continued their show with high enthusiasm. Unfortunately they only had time left for four songs to be played including of course Into The Pit and Disciples Of The Watch. This was a show that will be remembered for a long time!(I)

The first day, evening and night of Dokk’em open Air concluded with a ‘wow-these-guys-are-pretty-cool’ feeling towards Testament, being grand enough to also play on the very small and under-equipped party stage. Of course some late night beer fueled discussions on the upcoming Brexit were too funny not to have, especially the one referring to ‘het gedrag van Maastricht’. (W)

The second day of Dokk’m started with my personal favorite (if horribly planned during high noon): the Frysian black metal kings of Kjeld. Although initially somewhat undercrowded, they managed to fill up the field to a fair degree, with their 100% Frysian sung works, opening with Tûsen Sinnen. I couldn’t straight away put my finger on it, but their show came across less brilliant than their 2015 album Skym. Be it the time of day, be it the vocals lacking oomph, be it the grey skies too well lit… the show was missing something. Or maybe my coffee was not black enough and/or the beer not cold enough? The play was, technically speaking, just fine. Blasting and thundering beats, ice cold riffing, you name it and they delivered. Even performance, if one is allowed by the black metal police, was positively present with an un-black-metallesque animated and happy show of bass player Swerc. Some definitely called for unhappiness was delivered by the menacing and evil faced vocalist Skier. So, hopefully a better (blacker) show and setting next time I see these guys. (W)

Second band on stage are the Dutchies from Izegrim. The band is well known among the Dutch metalheads so they are welcomed by quite an enthusiastic crowd. But not only the crowd was enthusiastic; Izegrim themselves are known for their enthusiasm on stage, and today they didn’t lack. They banged their heads with smiles on their faces and delivered a great show with some classic older songs as well as of course songs from their new album The Ferrymen’s End including of course their single with a just released video clip: Time To Run. (I)

It was time for the Swedish death metal portion of the day, starting with Entrails. It had started raining, but the death metal fanatics at Dokk’em Open Air didn’t seem bothered by it and showed up in decent amounts . The heavy, old school inspired tunes encouraged the crowd to start head banging and that in combination with an energetic show from the cheerful looking band members, resulted in a performance that one can only describe as one with a good vibe. Simultaneously, Entrails set the mood for the band that was to play next. (L)

The death metal legends of Entombed A.D. continued the party that Entrails started and they also intensified it. There was more rain, but also more enthusiasm from the crowd. This didn’t only show in numbers as more people in colorful poncho’s appeared, but also in the fact that the amount of head bangers doubled. When looking at the crowd, you could see that the groovy riffs of the Swedes made (at least) everyone nod to the beat with their heads. Just when you thought the show couldn’t be much better, Entombed A.D. killed it by playing their classic ‘Left Hand Path’. Dokk’em seemed to love death metal today and it made me wonder a bit why there wasn’t more of it during the festival.(L)

After these two walls of Death Metal sound, it was time for somewhat a bit more melodic. Portuguese band Moonspell entered the stage to give us a nice dose of their dark gothic metal. Unfortunately the rain showed us no mercy so the band played in front of a soaked audience. But neither the band as the audience seemed to be bothered too much about it because from the first tunes on, the spirits were high. Still, I had to chuckle a bit when the second song of today ‘Extinct’ was played and I heard Fernando sing ‘Let’s pray for the waters to come’. The setlist was divers but of course classic songs as Alma Matter and Full Moon Madness were on it. After the show, the band hadn’t run out of enthusiasm yet, because it was a delight watching them go crazy when Portugal scored the winning goal against Croatia, congratulations! (I)

The weather gods didn’t listen to Fernando his prayers, and when Dragonforce entered the stage, the rain had finally stopped. Now I’m not a big Dragonforce fan myself but from the moment they started I had to smile and couldn’t stop smiling. Beside the fact that it’s almost unbelievable how fast and complicated their songs are, they also seem to find a lot of time to joke around on stage while playing these songs. Add a keytar played by a true entertainer (Vadim Pruzhanov) to this all and the picture is complete. If you had some time left after looking your eyes out of your head while watching Herman Li and Sam Totman, you could sing along with Marc Hudson, who had a hard time competing with the others. All with all, the show was great, and the audience was enjoying themselves while singing along with songs as Holding On, Heroes Of Our time and Through Fire and Flames. (I)

During Dragonforce there was already a delay in the time schedule, but the soundcheck for headliner Doro seemed to be never ending. When she finally arrived on stage with her band, and asked us if we were reading for some old school heavy metal they were running late for almost 45 minutes already. Unfortunately this meant that the headliner show which was supposed to be 1.5 hour, was shortened and Doro stood on stage for less than one hour. To get the audience enthusiastic from the start on, she chose to open up with all-time classic ‘Burning The Witches’. It didn’t take much for the audience to get going, and after the long wait, they could finally bang their heads and go crazy. The field was packed to its fullest during Doro, worthy for a the queen of heavy metal. (I)

Last to enter the stage are the Finnish boys from Finntroll. They also started a bit later because of previous circumstances but they managed to play the entire hour. It wasn’t as crowded as it was during Doro, but a good amount of people stayed to go crazy one last time. Finntroll always gives a straightforward live show and today was no exception. Even though it had been a long day, the trolls with the main role for vocalist ‘Vreth’, got the party started. The audience reacted immediately and there was a moshpit going on for almost the entire show. The band played a set with songs from various albums including hits like Nedgang, Svartberg, Jaktens Tid and of course Trollhammaren. (I)

And so the festival came to its end. It was over way too soon, and we and others with us could have partied much longer. Despite the rain and other difficulties our general impression was very possitive, and we noticed the organisation stepping in and fixing problems where they could. A few points of advice nevertheless would be: get your act together when it comes to the soundcheck and the DJ on the Party Stage (there is more music in the world than only Slayer and Rammstein). Also the sanitary fittings could use some attention, they were flooded multiple times.
Dokk’em Open Air, we see you 2017, because we will be back!

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