Stonehenge Festival 2016

30th of July, 2016
Steenwijk (NL)

Report by Wouter and Laetitia – pictures by Laetitia
We’re really happy that the Stonehenge Festival continued after last year’s setback due to the extreme weather. The 2015 edition was cancelled during the day because the market stands were about to be blown away, there was an actual danger of being electrocuted on stage and some headliners that couldn’t make it on time due to delays at the airport. The weather forecast for this year’s edition however was a 1000 times better and indeed we had lots of sunshine during the day. Only a tiny bit of rain during the night, but hey, we’re still in the Netherlands. It didnt not break our spirit. Approximately 2,000 metalheads gathered in the town square to support their favorite death metal bands, to drink a beer or amongst friends and to buy some merch.

Our arrival was perfect. We could park our car nearby and we could enter the festival area right away. There were no lines at the tokens and neither at the bar so we were just in time to see Fumes of Decay with a beer in the hand. These brutal death metallers from the northern parts of the Netherlands gave a good show. The chopping hands emerged during the slamming riffs and a crowd started a small circle pit. The setlist included songs from their only full-length so far obviously and also new songs from this year’s promo. The brutal music and the show made more enthusiastic about their new material. (W)

After this we wandered around, met some friends, drank a beer and we sat down on one of the few seats watching the Dutch band Skullhog from a distance. They focus on a filthy and heavy sound, somewhat comparable to Autopsy. The sludgy primitive riffs would have probably felt more comfortable in a shady pub however. The performance was not really convincing actually. (W)

Next up was Putrid Offal from France. The band started in 1991, playing deathgrind. The amount of released albums of Putrid Offal since than is not really impressive, since the band has only been really active for the past six years. However they’re still experienced musicians and you could tell that by their performance. The members were enthusiastic and enjoyed being on stage. It was a nice set to watch with both old and new songs. (W)

The problem on a great festival like this, where nearly all Dutch metalheads come to drink a beer and raise their horns, is that you’ll meet a lot of friends. Hence we missed the band on the other stage. So next up for us was Apophys from the Netherlands. This band shares members of God Dethroned and Prostitute Disfigurement among others so in case you don’t know them yet, this ought to be high quality death metal. Impressive riffs and nice rhythms got the crowd going and the band too had a great time. Nice show! (W)

And again, the next band for us was on the same stage. Caedere, also from the Netherlands. I really enjoy this band everytime I see them. Unfortunately, the vocalist couldn’t make it this time due to family related reasons. His replacement though did a great job, even though he hadn’t performed in years. It was a great set with songs from all three albums and the crowd agreed. During this brutality mosh pits emerged. (W)

After a little break I was very excited to see Cut Up. This death metal band from Sweden has members from Vomitory, which is one of my favorite live acts. And these well experienced metalheads gave a great show. Little known fact, this was their first performance on Dutch soil and many people were looking forward to see this group, for that reason. The band lived up to my expectations and I’m really happy to have seen and heard this set of old school death metal songs. (W)

The next band was Schirenc Plays Pungent Stench from Austria which is practically Pungent Stench. Schirenc however is not allowed to use that name for legal reasons. Which is very common these days, for some reason. But enough about that, let’s talk about the show at Stonehenge! Which was basically just badass. The filthy guitar and bass sound was amazing and the three members were great on stage. It was a powerful show and perfect for a moshpits! (W)

The Swedes of Wombbath returned to the stage after a break of nearly 20 years. The start of their show lacks a bit in smoothness, while the vocalist Jonny Pettersson is hardly hearable and the band needs some time to warm up. Pettersson, who stands out because of his impressively long beard, takes the lead in this and manages to incite the crowd with his heavy guttural vocals and menacing grins. Despite the mediocre sound, the crowd obviously enjoys the show, as the first rows are filled with head banging people. When the rest of the band has loosened up as well, judging by their smiles, the movements and the development from careful to intense head banging, the show is nearly over. It would be good to see Wombbath again in the Netherlands, albeit in a different setting and with more time. (L)

Necrophobic from Sweden was one of the bands I was looking forward to see a lot, partially because they were one of the few (if not actually) only band with some black metal influences. Necrophobic had a bit more gimmicky presence than I expected and a friend justly described the singer’s leather outfit, the semi-evil/semi-hilarious expressions and the extravagant spikes as the Manowar of black metal. The musicians nevertheless gave a professional show and the crowd visibly enjoyed it. Same goes for the band, who were ready to play some more songs when their time was up and (unfortunately), they were cut short. (L)

The show of the American grinders of Cattle Decapitation was a tumultuous and the opinions on their performance differ greatly. The stage where the band performed had some troubles with the sound. This was also the case with Cattle Decapitation and within the first three songs, vocalist Travis Ryan lost his cool and decided to throw a monitor around. The tension between the band and the crew stayed heightened for a while and the sense that is would escalate was very much present. Luckily it did not and after this little debacle, Cattle Decapitation grinded on intensely and this is why many visitors did appreciate the show. For me however, the unprofessional reaction ruined the show. (L)

The American death metal/grindcore outfit Misery Index was another one of those bands who many people eagerly awaited to see. The musicians also suffer because the sound lacks once again, but aside from looking a bit annoyed, they made it work (as it should be done). Misery Index demonstrated once again why they are such a loved band: their shows are efficient, there is a no-bullshit atmosphere, which results in a massive performance that nearly no band today managed to match. (L)

Immolation needs no introduction. With a steady discography and a couple of decades of stage experience, it is one of those bands that never fails live, even though the second guitarist was absent unfortunately. This led to a few silent moments during the solos which was really unfortunate. Nevertheless, the performance of the remaining three band members was intense. With groovy bass lines, the head bang skills of singer Ross Dolan (with that hair!), the ferocious looks of (God Dethroned’s Henri Sattler’s lost twin brother) Robert Vigna while he is riffing away (a), the Americans encouraged the crowd to participate in the party. They succeeded in that, despite the fact that it had started raining. All in all, the show could have been a lot better, but Immolation can be praised for not giving up and simultaneously giving such an impressive performance. Still arguably one of the better shows of the day with songs like Father, You’re Not a Father, Immolation and Majesty and Decay. (W)

Last but not least, the headliner Dying Fetus! This band always gets the crowd moving with their blasts and heavy breakdowns and Stonehenge is no exception. There was a big circle pit in front of the stage and headbangers surrounding them. My personal highlight of a Dying Fetus show is when they play Grotesque Impalement which is like the breakdown anthem. This show was the perfect ending of a great day of death metal music in the open air! (W)

Stonehenge 2016 was a successful edition and proved that a storm cannot turn one of the Netherlands best underground parties upside down. The organization should definitely look into the sound issues for next years edition, as it was kind of disturbing when it happens with every band and more toilets and box offices to buy tokens are welcome as well. Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to the next year’s edition with Absu, Braincasket, Benighted and many more!