Into The Grave 2017

Into The Grave 2017
August 11th & 12th 2017
Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Report and pictures by: Wouter (W) and Ingrid (I)

And so it began! Holidays! Off I went to Leeuwarden, the capital of Dutch province of Friesland, to enjoy and witness Into The Grave 2017. By now a rather known drive through the eastern and northern reaches of our small country, I went on my way Thursday night to my first stay over. A mandatory night in a hotel, as the festival camping grounds didn’t open until Friday 1200. From the hotel through the idyllic city center and towards the Neushoorn (or dubbed Neus-drink-horn by some) to enjoy the pre-party with Sisters of Suffocation, For I am King and Flotsam and Jetsam. After the brutal, in your face performance by the ladies of Sisters, I was completely blown away by For I am King! This metalcore band, fronted by the small yet formidable woman Alma Alizadeh, completely surprised me with their technical, melodic and intricate guitar work. And even though metalcore is (definitely) not my genre, I would recommend anyone to give FIAK a try! (W)

The trek through the idyllic center repeated itself the next morning, although preceded by a much needed coffee, breakfast and interrupted by a hearty lunch (featuring some exquisite ‘luke-warm’ goat cheese at the local Fire pub) towards the camping grounds. A bit of confusion regarding the camping ticket scanning results (“I don’t know, they are all orange anyway!”) non-withstanding, we put up our tents in the Rengers park, about 15 min from the Festival. (W)

The desire to see bands was shared by many, which lead to a rather long que at the entrance. This unfortunately extended well into the time slot of the first band, The Charm The Fury. This did nothing, however, to the overall friendly and happy atmosphere of the festival; if anything the bawdy sing-alongs and merrily shouting ‘SLAYER’ only increased during the wait. (W)

Watching what was left of The Charm The Fury (2010, Netherlands), I was greeted with a lively show featuring Caroline Westendorp as vocalist. Indeed their collective distaste for the current state of the world makes for an almost sheer endless inspiration for their genre of melodic, at times metalcorisch, death metal. The mixed grunting and clean vocals of Caroline and the somewhat poppy sound had me a bit on edge and didn’t do me too much good. However, if you like the genre pioneered by Holy Moses and perfected by Arch Enemy, this would definitely be up your ally. (W)

A second show of legendary power/thrash metallers Flotsam and Jetsam (1984, USA), this time with a larger audience compared to the pre-party. To entertain the awaiting masses during the sound check, front man Erik A.K. danced around on stage whilst wearing a green devil mask, much to the entertainment of all. Their fast-paced show of thrashing around did honor to their long if at times critique plagued history. Their (well received and great) 2016 self-titled release has much improved the bands’ reception, compared to the 2014 re-recording of ‘No Place for Disgrace’. A show of quality, awesome base guitar work and swinging talent! (W)

Legendary (yes) Metal Church (1984, USA), after an eventful, turbulent and above all long history, have re-joined and are currently touring intensely, including Dynamo Metalfest, Wacken and today at Into the Grave. A show of classic 80s heavy metal (a US brother to Judas Priest?) with the spectacular voice of long time vocalist Mike Howe, including characteristic dual virtuoso solos and the typical mid-paced tight drumming that you just can’t dislike. (W)

Where Metal Church was mainly loved by the fans of the old school heavy metal, next band seemed more appealing to the younger metal lover. After an audience swap, Alestorm entered the stage and started off with one of their most well-known songs: Keelhauled. Immediately the party mood was set and as well band as audience seemed to have fun the entire show. Even though they are always fun to watched, it was one of the lesser shows I have watched… and those are many. Somehow the band wasn’t very convincing today, and also the sound was a little off. Nevertheless the jokes were many, the audience crazy and crowd surfing, and the setlist was a nice balance between songs from the older days like Nancy The Tavern Wench and songs from their brand new album No Grave But The Sea, such as the title song and ‘Mexico’ . (I)

Next up was my favourite band on this festival, and band I was looking forward the most: Powerwolf. Watching them live always is much fun and today was no exception. After building up the stage in their ‘heavy metal mass’ style the band entered and started with the title song of their latest album ‘Blessed & Possessed’. It is known that this band is extremely popular in their home country Germany, but it seems that the Dutch have grown very fond of them as well because the fans came with many. Powerwolf knows how to pull off an entertaining show and the fans sang and danced along on songs as Amen & Attack, Resurrection by Erection and We Drink Your Blood. The interaction between band and audience was great, but if they wouldn’t talk as much in between the songs or do a screaming competition among the fans, they would have had some time left to play extra songs because the Powerwolf fan in me really missed some classics like ‘All we need is blood’. (I)

Evening closer and legends (there, I said it, again) Saxon (1978, UK) meant for another show of epic heavy metal. Indeed, their age non-withstanding, these guys rocked, shredded and ruled, from start to finish. Long lasting front man Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn know how to make music and entertain like no one else, although I guess you grow into it a bit after some 40 years. Of course, songs like Motorcycle Man, Wheels of Steel were part of the set, which wasn’t finished until and encores Denim and Leather and must-play Princess of the Night. (W)

Into The Grave 2017 – Saturday:

Arriving at the festival area early today, we were glad to see that there wasn’t a queue in front of the entrance this time and we could enter the festival area easily and without having to wait in line. Some of us were slightly hangover from the after party that took place in the Neushoorn yesterday, but nevertheless we were excited for the day to come because some great bands were on the bill today.

Today started with the Finns from Ember Falls. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I was quite surprised to see guys in red/pinkish outfits with matching corpse paint entering the stage. When they started to play I immediately knew that this really wasn’t my kind of music, but fortunately for the band they seemed to have quite some fans on this festival. The band knows how to perform on a big stage and despite some false tunes every now and heavy rainfall, they got the crowd moving and sticking around this early on the day. (I)

A few weeks ago, we could not have imagined that Pro Pain was actually going to play on the festival today, since singer & bass player Gary Meskil got robbed and seriously injured early in July. But thankfully his recovery went very well and despite what some internet trolls had to say about them cancelling their show, today it seemed like the band stood on the stage stronger than ever. They totally kicked ass and blew me away; and I’m not even a fan. The show was very straightforward and in your face; definitely one of the best shows on the festival! Lots of respect for Gary and the rest of the band! (I)

Time for a band from our own Dutch soil; Textures. For fans, and other people on the festival, this was one of the last chances to see them perform live because later on this year (December) they will play their final live show and break up. But since we are not there yet, no talk of doom, but only talk of praise. From the very first tune until the last, the band gave a highly energetic performance and they truly impressed me. To be honest, they never impressed me as much as they did today. I wasn’t they only one because the festival area was quite filled up with spectators. Even outside of the fences people were watching their show. Even though their performance wasn’t flawless, they really performed well. (I)

Good ol’ Sodom (1981, Germany) plays my kind of thrash: fast, technical-yet-no-nonsense and, on a personal note, reminiscent of the many Wackens I’ve been privileged to visit. They manage to squeeze more music out of one guitar and one bass guitar than many (no offence intended) modern acts sporting two or even three guitars. Off course the characteristically perma-hung-over sounding vocals by Tom Angelripper are familiar sound-for-sore-ears (at least to me, given the earlier Wacken argument). A show that never stood still (Agent Orange, Outbreak of Evil!) and a pleasure to watch, especially the guitar work by Bernemann. (W)

Next on stage was American deathcore band Whitechapel. Not my cup of tea at all, but to be honest, I quite liked their show. They played very tight, and you might like them or not, they are truly talented live musicians. Singer Phil Bozeman seems to be very fond of this white towel, something I don’t really understand (did I miss something here?), but they (mainly young) audience seems to be walking away with it, so well…. I’m not sure if they had more crowdsurfers than Alestorm had the previous day, but there surely were many to be seen. Besides crowd surfing there were many people banging heads, moshpitting and having a great time! (I)

Life of Agony (US, 1989) are probably the band with one of the most turbulent histories of those playing on ItG. While they recently released a full length, the band has been on a pro-longed hiatus since the release of Broken Valley (2005). Many splits, pauses and (live show) re-uniting attempts later however, they do stand here on Dutch soil. Their front man changed into a front woman, nowadays going by the name of Mina Caputo (formely Keith). All of the above however, didn’t prevent them from playing a rock solid show of their (somewhat) sad US death/heavy metal. If anything, they played and performed as if this has been their profession since birth. All though I don’t like their style or themes, I guess it’s a nice surprise for the long lasting fans to see them live (again). (W)

It is time for some more thrash metal when Overkill enters the stage. Highly overenergetic Bobbly Blitz runs on and off stage while the rest of the band runs and walks around on the stage as well. Overkill never disappoints and today is no exception. The band has a lot of fun on stage and this vibe is also noticeable in the audience. Mr. Blitz jokes around and talks to the audience in his best Dutch (kudos!). Of course the classics such as Rotten to the Core, Hello From the Gutter and Elimination are played, but also Mean, Green, Killing Machine from their new album The Grinding Wheel as well as a few other ‘newer’ songs passed by. At the end of the show they started to play one of the other most well-known songs ‘Fuck You’, when about half way in they suddenly surprised us with the beginning tune of ‘Radar Love’ from one of the most famous Dutch bands Golden Earring. At this point the entire audience went wild and the whole square was filled with people dancing and singing along. A truly great performance by Overkill! (I)

Technical thrashing done right with Arch Enemy! Although the music is definitely easy listening, these Swedes combine technical riffing with brutal female vocals like no-one else, and actually set the standard in this ‘genre’. Original front woman Angela Gossow (2000-2014) has been replaced by stage beast Alissa Whitegluz, which, after seeing her twice by now, is a more than worthy replacement. Their show at ItG was fast, precise and thrashing like hell! Alissa can’t stand still for a second and watching the two guitarists work their magic is something I will probably always enjoy – I have been since their 2001 album Wages of Sin anyway. Luckily for me, they played sufficient old neak-breaking stuff (Ravenous, We Will Rise and Nemesis) next to their newer songs (The World Is Yours and old-school aggressive As the Pages Burn). (W)

And suddenly it’s there: the last band, the one that raids and pillages like no other: Amon Amarth! Perhaps the band that inspired so many to pursue the Viking(s) (remnants), drink beer or just annoyingly sing tü-tüdû-tütüü and come up with Pink Pather themes; but surely a name that is hard to dislike. Kicking off with, yes, Pursuit of Vikings (what else?), Johann Heggs’ legion of stage Vikings set forth to conquer the capital of the last Viking(ish) region of the Netherlands with a near perfect play and a spectacular pyro-show. Supporting their latest, songs from the Jomsviking First Kill and s(w)ing-along The Way of Vikings were on the set list. Dancing a merry jig on Deceiver of the Gods turned to serious head banging during (my) all-time favorite Death in Fire. Drinking and more partying continued on and off stage with Raise Your Horns and of course Twilight of the Thunder God. (W)

For those who just couldn’t get enough, Into The Grave offered an after party in the Neushoorn this day as well. For those who can’t get enough of Amon Amarth their stage decoration we recommend a visit to Dutch theme park the ‘Efteling’.
All together this year’s edition of Into The Grave, despite the rain, was truly awesome again. It is great to be part of this unique festival in the middle of a city center. The atmosphere was great, and walking outside of the fences we only heard positive comments about the festival as well, keep it up!

Just a few point of improvement might be the long queue on the first day, maybe the terrain could be opened a little earlier. Also the queue to get in and out of the toilet area was insane the first day. The second day this was improved already by moving the entrance tent but still there were quite some waiting lines and a few very very full (male) toilets. Especially after moving the beergarden it might be a good idea to put a second set of toilets on the other side of the square. (I)