Dong Open Air 2016

July 14th-16th 2016
Dong Mountain, Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany

Report by: Wouter(W), Ingrid(I) & Tabitha(T)
Pictures by: Wouter & Ingrid

This year was a special Dong for us – it was Metal-Exposure reporter Ingrid’s 10th Dong Open Air! 10 years of climbing the Dong mountain, ten years of camping in blistering heat or thunderstorms. This was certainly an event to look forward to, and with some very neat headliners, the festival promised to be a success yet again. So there we go, Into the Pott!

The second band of the festival, participating in the finals of the Metal Battle, was Syndemic – a death metal constellation from Hamburg. The band has been around since 2011 and this was their first opportunity to show the Ruhrgebiet what they have to offer. As was to be expected for the second band on Thursday, the tent was not packed, but at least 300 people did show up to check out this promising young band. (T)

Welcome to the Freakshow! That much was clear when German folk-metal Harpyie made the stage . Inspired after the ancient Greek mythological birds with human heads, who are known to steal your food when you’re having dinner and carry away evil humans, the name translates as “snatchers”. Indeed, the human front man on stage wore a birds’ mask on the opening track. The bands’ music is much like the (overly) familiar folk-metal that enriches Germany these days, hurdy-gurdy included. That is not saying I didn’t like it, it is actually quite infective party music, but not much new on this worn out genre. The stage play was very lively, which therefore made up for the “hey, haven’t I seen this before?” feelings. (W)

Dong veterans Suidakra were next up on stage for us to watch. This was to be their third show on the hill. Their fan base is pretty large, and the tent was filled accordingly. Their catchy folkish Celtic death metal made for an enjoyable and energetic show, which was reflected in the audience which responded with lots of head banging and some crowd surfing. The songs were a mixture of older and newer songs, and of course some classics, like “Dead Men’s Reel” and “Isle of Skye”. A solid and enjoyable show, as was to be expected! (T)

Next up, and also not for the first time on the hill were the guys from Rage. The tent got even more crowded than during Suidakra and I guess by now almost everybody on the hill that had a wristband was inside. The band and the audience both were full with energy and from the start on there was movement and a lot of singing along. The show was great and the band played songs like Back In Time, Spirit of the Night, and of course Higher Than The Sky; which was to be heard on the hill until the first light of morning by people who got stuck with an earworm. (I)

Finnish masters of melody Amorphis I have never given the attention they clearly deserve; a very well performed show by this longtime Kalevala inspired headliner. Although going back to 1990 (!) these guys still know how to grip an audience and guide you over the Finnish lands and lakes with their phenomenal guitar work (Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari). Even though I think I only recognized one song, they made me reminiscent of Finland and stirred a longing for going there again (and again, and again). The show was enlivened by their singer Tomi Joutsen, using a very steam-punk inspired microphone to spread his mythological words, what a voice! This show left me wanting for more! (W)

After a great after party in the tent with lots of heavy metal and dancing metalheads slowly crawled out of their tents on Friday morning. Grateful that we didn’t burn out of our tents like previous years we were quite fresh to start a new day filled with heavy metal. The only long lines this day were those consisting of men holding toilet paper in front of the Dixies.

First band of this day came all the way from India. Against all my expectations and experiences from previous years, the tent was pretty filled when Kryptos started playing. The visitors of Dong showed them a lot of support and they well deserved it. The show they put on was great and they got the crowd very enthusiastic, and us as well. They got us thát enthusiastic that we spontaneously decided to do an interview with them that you can read later on, on metal-exposure because we wanted to know more about this band!(I)

After Kryptos, the tent emptied again, and only a few diehard fans remained to watch the next bands. Second band of the day didn’t have to travel all the way from the other side of the world because the guys from Another Problem almost live around the corner. They seemed to have brought their own personal fan base along because the centre pit of the audience had completely gone wild. The band itself was like an exploded energybomb as well and gave a very entertaining and interactive show. (I)

Also from ‘around’ were they guys from Delirius. The tent was still pretty empty, but their thrash metal seemed to get some people moving. And even though the crowd got somewhat moving, I wasn’t too impressed. Not that this was a bad show, because it certainly was not, but I got the feeling they could have put a lot more effort into it, it was just a bit plain today unfortunately. (I)

Next band on the other hand filled up the tent again. Jesus Crusler Supercar played to good old Rock ‘n Roll and the people, including yours truly, seemed to really like it. The music was straight forward and well played, and the band enjoyed themselves on stage. The interaction with the audience was perfect and they even had to play an encore because they people were begging for it. To those of you who are still mourning over the death of Lemmy, keep an eye on this band! (I)

Burden of Grief from Hessen has been around for a while, their style melodic death metal. They’ve released nine albums already and this should be material for a fully packed show. And though the audience seemed to enjoy the show of the five veteran musicians, personally the music couldn’t excite me. It lacked the energy that, only a few hours before, Kryptos had presented on stage. It was remarkable that the tent was only half full during this show, where it had been almost full during the first band of the day. I guess, sometimes a band just has bad luck! (T)

Time for some energetic folk music with the Berlin band The Pokes! Nine years before this band had already been guest at the Dong festival and now they were back on stage! The good humored musicians played contagious folk rock with accordions, kilts, and lots of beer. The catchy music got the whole crowd moving and created a great atmosphere. The music might not be to everyone’s taste, but it was a nice change of scenery between all the death and gore of the other bands. (T)

Next bands to watch was one of my personal favorites so I was very excited when Fleshgod Apocalypse entered the stage. their latest album ‘King’ is still echoing through my head even though it has been months since I had the album on repeat . I was pleased to hear some of the songs live though I must say that I was just a little disappointed. I don’t know if the band had an off day, or that the sound was just off, but today wasn’t one of the better Fleshgod Apocalypse shows I have seen. And even though I still found myself entertained by the stage performance and hearing some great tunes, I still left just slightly disappointed. (I)

Always promising to be a mosh-laden, dancing, sweating and beer fueled party, Equilibrium has a special place on my love/hate scale. While I still love their first albums and cannot sit still at their corny-but-all-time-favorite Unbesiegt, they kind of bore me currently. Sure, the show was great, infective and well played. Frontman Robert Dahn is clearly a voice (and force) to be reckoned with, and the music sounded just fine. But Equilibrium has become a band that seems to play the same music, seemingly without evolution. If you love their style this is not a problem, but the band has lost my interest a bit. Except for moshing like a maniac, for which yours truly confesses to be slightly guilty. And of course Unbesiegt made a grand finish to their show, which was graced with an encore of Blut Im Auge. (W)

There is music, to which the majority of bands belong. Technically good, precise drumming, fast riffing, you got it. Then a while, upwards on the ladder of awesomeness, a whole lot of nothing. Then one hits Scandinavian riffing. Both Norway and Sweden are well represented there, and Bloodbath is no exception. Wow, that was some guitar work to watch! This ‘super’ group, consisting of members from renown bands like Katatonia (Anders Nyström, guitars), Paradise Lost (Nick Holmes, vocal) and Martin Axenrot (Opeth, guitar) was once inspired to make death metal so technical, so vile and brutal yet so well made, the genre would be lifted from the ‘down-in-the-corner’ position it is often placed. And hell, they did just that. The sound was slightly off and way too loud, but I guess that comes with the avalanche of hatred that comes with songs like Cancer of the Soul. Nick Holmes, replacing Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) and Peter Tägtren (Hypocrisy) as vocalist after their departures, is still doing a convincing job, nulling any age arguments one might have. Eaten, the gruesome story of voluntary cannibalism, could not be omitted, if only for some happy singing along. (W)

Too soon, already the last day! Tired of partying too hard, we once again crawled out of our tents. This time to not face the heat because we were welcomed by a bunch of clouds hanging over the Ruhrgebiet. No complaining on our side, because this meant: sleep long and don’t wake up bathing in your own sweat!
Actually starting to feel a little chilly we head towards the tent, to get instant hot again because the air in the tent wasn’t all too nice. Within minutes we felt hot and sweaty again (hint: maybe the organization could open a few more sides of the tent next year to let a little more fresh air enter the tent?)

French originating Can of Worms provided the ideal ‘wake-up-you’re-being-thrashed’ experience I needed to do just that. The stage play by the bass player and guitarist was super enthusiastic and articulated with grins and grimms. Banging like maniacs with technically well sounding thrash, they did an inspiring job to keep me listening, even though the genre is definitely not my favorite. Especially the guitar (solo) work by their front man was of very (infective) high quality. This fact was proven by the small audience still managing to create a moshpit in otherwise sparsely filled tent. (W)

On the weekend a failed coup was attempted in Turkey, Raven Woods hailing from the very same country almost didn’t make it to Dong due to the situation back home. Their music consisted (understandably?) of aggression laden riffing and drumming. The thrashing was made more lively by using upbeat tempos here and there. A technically great sound, worthy of checking out. And of course these guys deserve a fair amount of respect for still making heavy metal music in a country of free speech robbery and almost blatant repression. (W)

Next band on stage was quite a pleasant surprise for me. The clownish formation ApRon really knows how to put on a show. Their stage performance reminded me most of a combination between The Grailknights and The Excrementory Grindfuckers; entertainment guaranteed. During the show they let someone crowdsurf on an inflatable crocodile, they gave the main part of the audience paper party horns to make a hell lot of noise and the entire tent was filled with confetti at the end, a great show to watch!(I)

After the great show of Dust Bolt, it was time for Hackneyed to enter the stage. After being together for about ten years, the band decided to quit, but not before they gave their fans a chance to see them one more last time. So because of this, a lot of their fans were going wild during their show. The band had a lot of energy and played a really tight set, what a great musicians they are! (I)

[…]
I do not feel obliged to believe
that the same God who has endowed us
with sense, reason and intellect
has intended us to forgo their use
[…]

Haggard; the band of “how many people can you put on a podium”?Or: Italian baroque meets metal? Since Eppur Si Muove (see quote from Galileo Galilei, the opening lyric for the The Observer), I’ve loved these guys, making metal but also bringing half an orchestra on stage. A mix of death metal inspired riffing and vocals by lead Assis Nesseri, who also does a very good job of (classical quality) clean vocals. The bands’ unique signature comes from mixing in soprano and tenor voices, the use of a cello and other classical instruments into bits of quality progressive/death metal. The sound and performance were both very good, a big thumbs up for the sound engineers making this multi voice and instruments nightmare sound awesome in a tent. The Observer clearly struck me, what a an amazing composition put on live stage… Guitarist Claudio Qaurta made for a lively stage play, even daring to get off the stage and play in the middle of the audience. This was a concert to remember Haggard by, for me one of their best plays since following them in 2006. (W)

Headliner of Saturday was Testament – a band that most people, including me, were looking forward to immensely. With Testament, you just know the show is going to be awesome – they always deliver! Drummer Gene Hoglan is a bloody machine and a pleasure to listen and bang to, bass player Steve di Giorgio is a legend and vocalist and frontman Chuck Billy of course needs no further introduction. The setlists consisted of some songs from the latest album, Dark Roots of Earth – an album that I really love. So I was happy to sing along with Rise Up, Native Earth and title song Dark Roots of Earth. But with nine other albums, of course Testament had plenty of material (Practice What You Preach, Into the Pitt (!!)) to provide us with an awesome, lengthy show in front of a fully packed tent. The head banging was epic, the mosh pit was worthy of its name and the crowd surfers were aplenty. On a side note: Though the show was just as I had expected – powerful, energetic, loud – a huge turn off for me were the unnecessary remarks by Chuck Billy about one enthusiastic female crowd surfer: “She likes to be touched”, “keep passing her around”, stuff like that. I can really do without sexist remarks like that and it definitely put a damper on my experience of the show. Please show some more respect for women Chuck! Thank you (still love you though). (T)

So that’s it! Dong Open Air 2016 went out with a bang with the explosive Testament show. But wait…there’s more! Because who can forget the EPIC after party, ‘Dong style’? Think: dancing on stage, great party music, free beer after a certain time, and generally a great atmosphere. This is the point where (most of) the crew gets their time off, and boy, do they know how to party! We gladly joined them to celebrate the greatest smallest festival of the Ruhrgebiet (and possibly the whole country).

Of course we have some things to complain about – we wouldn’t be press if we didn’t. First of all (but the organization already recognized this) the queue for the wrist bands/coupons was too long. The weather was great to wait in and the people at the festival are tolerant and good-natured, but it was unnecessary and not very nice for the first bands that had less audience because of this. Second, though we were very siked about the flushing toilets (what luxury! What bliss!), sometimes, the toilets were out of order. When they were, unfortunately, there were few alternatives. Thirdly, the prices have gone up and though it is still cheaper than Wacken (which is not very hard) 3 euros for a beer is not the Dong pricing we are used to. Also, we need cocktails! Make it happen!
Thirdly..well..my biggest complaint must be that the festival is only once a year and ‘only’ lasts three days. I would happily spend a week on the beautiful Dong mountain.

Why? Well, it has the nicest crowd, the best atmosphere, the greatest views, awesome organization, professional security, decent food and a fantastic line up (I’m running out of adjectives here).
In short: Ding Dong motherfucker! See you next year!