Held every year in Dessel, Belgium, usually during the last weekend of June, the festival celebrated 15 years of existence in 2010. Big names such as Aerosmith, Soulfly and Kiss were brought for the celebration, even if along its history the festival was never cheap on big names. A list with these names can be found here.
The sun seems to have enjoyed the music and considered showing up for the entire weekend, making it almost unbearable in the small tents. Speaking of small tents, the amount of famous names playing here is so high that names like Sepultura and Nile only got a space in the smallest of the 3 tents. Organisation is even better than in 2009 in my opinion, but itâ€™s probably demanded by an increased number of attendees. The distribution of the stages and food tents was different, and I think it was a change for the better, making the area for the crowd a bit wider and easier to walk. On the list of annoying things comes the huge amount of dust, given the fact that the grass is neither at its tallest, nor its greenest over there. Hence, we called the festival Dustpop among ourselves. Devin Townsend called it Graspoop.
The project of Floor Jansen, the former After Forever singer, together with keyboardist Joost van den Broek and guitarist Waldemar Sorychta, was the opener of the festival on the main stage. Floor showed us what a good voice she has, and, most of all, how excited she was to be on stage with her new colleagues. Everyone looked like enjoying it to the max, setting the right mood and making a good opener for the concerts to come. They had a short show, but since they only have a self titled album, they didnâ€™t need more.
Next up on the main stage we saw the Canadians from Billy Talent. They have been playing since 1993 and they have four albums, called Watoosh!, Billy Talent, Billy talent II and Billy Talent III. Depending on how one defines talent, you can agree or not with the bandâ€™s name, but all in all it was an enjoyable alternative/punk show. It started quite intense and heavy, but after a while it got more mellow, making me lose interest.
In the Marquee I tent, the British musicians from Anathema got 50 minutes for their show, so besides regular songs like Empty, Fragile Dreams or Universal, they opened with a cover of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. It suited their style, but I would have rather heard more Anathema songs. I was once again nicely impressed by the female voice and their guitars.
The same good old Slayer sound was delivered from the speakers on the main stage. It drove the crowd really crazy, leading to moshpits in front of the stage. However, the bright daylight sort of ruined their show for me, since it was rather weird to see the sun reflecting on Kerry Kingâ€™s skull. Despite the intense music, I had to run to the Marquee I tent to catch a place in front for the next band, so I missed the ending with Raining Blood.
With a new line-up that started performing together only a few weeks ago, they delivered a set made of a mix of old and newer tunes. I can say they have four front vocalists now, so there was a lot to see on stage, because each and every one of them was fooling around and making their own mini show. Thomas VikstrÃ¶m, when he was standing quiet in the back, got easily bored so he filled his time by trying some Irish dance moves or just laughing at the crowd. Snowy Shaw asked the crowd if they want some Thai Food (before they played Typhoon). Their new guitarist, Christian Vidal, is quite talented and did a hard job at learning the songs the way they were played by his predecessor. I am glad to see them in such a good mood for shows, and looking forward for their album to come in September and the shows afterwards.
Stone Temple Pilots
We took a break for some food while listening to their mellow music on the background, enough to hear the singer dedicating one of the songs to Paul Grey, his friend with whom he shared the same room at rehab when fighting heroin addiction. He said about Paul that he was smart and had a great great heart. Also, the singer refused to take the pants off, as one of the signs in the crowd was demanding.
I saw her live before in a big hall and I was impressed by her voice. Here, in one of the tents at Graspop, one can tell she has a very melodic voice, but there was really no power in it. Her show started with some delay: after the whole band got on stage, she let them wait for a while, coming 5 minutes or so later, dressed in a completely white outfit. The songs I heard were some of the new ones and really not convincing, nor impressive in any way. The cool parts were when the cello came in.
I ran quickly to the other tent where there was another female performer, this time Doro. She had a powerful voice that was knocking down the small tent. It also was completely packed, so I only got to enjoy the audio without seeing anything on stage.
Frank: Doro herself enjoyed this show, because Belgium was one of the first countries she played outside of Germany. A lot of classic Doro and Warlock songs were played, including Burning the Witches, I Rule the Ruins and the ever so beautiful ballad FÃ¼r Immer.
Due an interview I took during their show, I only managed to catch the last 3 songs, including their Ace of Spades that set the crowd on fire. The show had nothing impressive apart from the British trio performing their music with accuracy.
My Dying Bride
I was curious to see what their show would be like, although I am not a big fan of their style of music. The show was dramatic, at least for the singer whose outfit matched the drama and he continuously raised his arms into the air, slowly lowering them, bending himself down to the floor, all to add up to the drama in their lyrics. Still, I donâ€™t quite think their show is suitable for a small tent at a festival.
Frank: Saxon is one of those bands that play a lot of festivals. They had already played the Graspop Metal Meeting multiple times, and are always willing to come back. The Marquee II was packed for these British legends. Performing all classics like Motorcycle Man, Wheels of Steel, and 747. At one point during the show, they had a guest with them, a Brazilian guy who won a contest and got to pick one show to play one song with the band. He chose the GMM festival, got to play for a couple of thousands of people, and did a very good job.
The headliner of the day were the legends from Aerosmith, led by a Steven Tyler with an awesome voice and a Joe Perry performing magic with his guitar. Before the concert we listened to Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, and it was fun to hear most of the crowd singing along. And, right before the concert, the song played had lyrics like “everybody wants to get stoned”
The scarves around the microphone and other classic accessories were not missing. I got goose bumps on many of their ballads due the impressive singing skills. They didnâ€™t skip the ballads that sound like a jam session, where everyone was putting out the craziest solos with their instruments. Joe Perry took off his belt at some point, threw the guitar on the floor and started smashing it with the belt.
Frank: This band was quite new (only two albums so far), but with names like Jari Kainulainen (Stratovarius, Evergrey) on bass, Jon Dette (Slayer, Testament) on drums, Peter Scheithauer (Temple of Brutality, Belladonna) on guitar and Csaba Zvekan (Sardonyx) on vocals, you know thereâ€™s a good line-up. Although it was early and not many people had arrived yet, they put up a solid show. But what else can you expect for a band that will also play the Wacken festival and will open for AC/DC later this year?
The Swedes who mostly play about historical wars opened the day for me on the main stage. They keep jumping around during their very energetic show, and itâ€™s quite a good wake up music. In between songs they talked to the crowd, spicing the dialogues up with jokes about the sound engineer and a blow job. The show ended literally on fire, on the rhythms of Primo Victoria.
To wake up completely, I went to the Marquee I tent to check out more Swedes, this time on the black metal side. They came on stage with their faces painted almost on the edge of silliness, and with big pentagrams on their clothes. I think most of their songs are dedicated to one form or another of Satan or anything anti Christian. Good blasting from the drummer.
Death by Stereo
Frank: Death by Stereo was one of the many hardcore bands to play Marquee II this year. During the song EMO Holocaust they had one of the biggest â€œWalls of Deathâ€ I have ever seen. The band played fast and tight, and put up a very nice set.
Bullet For My Valentine
A quick stop by the main stage brought me in front of this band and their heavy/metalcore music. It was full of young fans with weird outfits and many spiked haircuts, who did a lot of crowd surfing and some pits in front of the stage.
I changed the musical style to Death Metal when I went back to the Marquee I tent. I felt like listening to a more brutal version of Six Feet Under, but without the dynamic of their show. Actually, Cannibal Corpse had one of the most static shows Iâ€™ve seen. What was really impressive, and I have to check it out at other concerts, was the fact that the bass guitar seemed to only have 3 strings.
Walls of Jericho
In the other smaller Marquee tent I could only resist for a few songs, since it was very crowded and hot. Candace Kucsulainâ€™s voice was really powerful, and she kept on using swear words when talking to the crowd. She invited the people to make the biggest circle pit and I canâ€™t imagine how crazy that was in front of the small stage. This concert had a problem with the speakers that gave up for half of a song.
The British death metal band was a last minute replacement for Mastodon. They hardly tour these days, since all members are busy with other projects, so the fans were really lucky to get to see them live. They didnâ€™t bring up all their projections, but the crowd seemed happy with the songs performed and the quality of the music.
Frank: This was actually the band I was most looking forward to see on the Saturday. Fear Factory has a very particular industrial metal sound. Theyâ€™re touring at the moment in support of their new album Mechanize. While playing new songs from the album, they didnâ€™t forget old stuff, among which one of my favorites, Edgecrusher.
With a recently launched self titled album, the ex Gunsâ€™n Roses guitarist came on stage with his classic tall black hat and awesome guitar handling. His touring band is fronted by Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy, who, conveniently enough, sounds like Axl (even a bit better, according to some) and, together with the other members, delivered a cheesy playlist with a lot of old Guns' songs. They also felt fresh, due to the new musicians.
Once a big headliner for this festival, they only got a place in Marquee I this time around, and the tent was surprisingly empty. They didnâ€™t seem to be at their best concert mood, but since I enjoyed their music for quite a while, I was happy to get to see them. The singer admitted that their hit As I Die is an old song that they stole.
Sick of it All
Frank: Another legend on Marquee II. This hardcore band from Queens, NY has been around for almost 25 years. They recently released a new album called Based on a True Story and were glad to play some of the new tunes to the fans.
Before the concert, I went in the middle of the crowd while holding my camera, and a nice guy there asked me “Are you sure you wanna stay here with this camera?”. I was explained it would get wild and I moved. And right he was. The folk metal band from Switzerland made the Metal Dome tent seem even smaller than it was. They had a big white-ish screen behind the drums that made the lights seem weird altogether. I really loved the sounds of the flutes, hurdy gurdy and violins and the folk rhythm totally made me understand why the crowd would go mad in front of the stage.
I said that the tents were too small for many of the bands I saw there, but for Airbourne 10 tents wouldnâ€™t have been enough. The Australians know how to make a fantastic show for their hard rock tunes. Besides continuous movement, jumping, acting on stage, the singer did his classic stage climbing and played a small solo on top of the stage. For one of the songs, he said he wanted to see the biggest number of people on othersâ€™ shoulders. So the crowd got taller on average. Plus, he kept asking “how did you like this or that band” that had already performed at the festival. I think Iâ€™d put their concert on a list of “not to miss”.
The second headliner of the festival had nothing of the glam of the other two headliners. Yet, they came up with their fast, heavy grooves all spiced with South American rhythms. Cavaleraâ€™s voice sounded as good and harsh as I was used to, and he played most of the times with his guitar having the Brazilian flag on it. I liked how he kept saying that he wants to see the hands in the sky (instead of the classical in the air). The drum solo after the first few songs was absolutely incredible and it ended up with every member of the band having a drum next to them and supporting the main beats of the drummer. For a song from the Roots album, Cavalera has invited his brother, Igor, to play the drums. And for Unleash, they invited Ritchie Cavalera to sing the growled parts.
The crowd was invited to make two walls of death on each side of the stage, and the amount of crowdsurfers and participants at pits was insane. Good tunes to have in my head on my way back to the tent.
The American metalcore band whose name is inspired by the character in the fantasy movie The Nevereneding Story opened the last day on the main stage. While the members got on stage they had a Queen song on the background. The music is quite intense, with lots of screaming and the guitar solo almost resemble power/speed metal.
This is a band that I have recently discovered, and fell in love with. And another personal interest in watching them was to see how the former Therion bassist Johan Niemann integrated into the progressive band. He seemed confident with his playing, and it was a nice surprise to see him doing backing vocals as well. The singer Tom joked that they would play fast, because they want to run and see Katatonia. They had a good performance, but I think the sun must have been a killer for them, it was shinning right above the stage.
I went to the small stage for a bit of shade and of fun with the Americans who have been around for 23 years now. To celebrate this, they came up with a new T-shirt, which gave the opportunity to the singer to throw his other T-shirt to the crowd. Also because of the celebration, they didnâ€™t play any new song. The lyrics of the band are extremely funny and after the song Little pigs, the singer joked that his mum never believed him when he said this song is going to be famous outside Europe. But now sheâ€™s going to believe it when she sees the recording they made. This concert gets the title of the funniest of the festival.
Frank: After having changed personnel a few times the last few years, Exodus recently released a new album called Exhibit B, The Human Condition. The American thrashers look like they still got what it takes. One look at the crowd showed numerous circle pits from the very first moment the band came on stage. The sun was at its hottest this day, and so was the crowd. Lightning fast guitar solos and pounding drums made a great set.
Jon Olivaâ€™s Pain
A band thatâ€™s getting heavier and heavier, yet the voice stays as pleasant as many years ago. Jon Oliva came on stage with his piano, and he performed most of their biggest hits while getting soaked in the really hot sun, getting the crowd of all ages to sing along and cheer. He dedicated the song Believe to Dio, because he was a big hero and support for him (he toured for the first time with Dio). He also told us that they had some technical problems due to something that happened on the plane. All in all, it was a cozy concert for a Sunday afternoon.
A new portion of folk metal, again in the small Metal Dome. The Finns started the show with the tune Vodka and set the mood for another of the most awesome moments of the festival. They had horns decorating most of the stage and the microphone. The violin was filling the air with good mood and joy, and I can only regret that I left the concert in an attempt to go and see the panda metal from Immortal. It was too full at the entrance to bother swimming through the crowd. And unfortunately it was the same later on at Finntroll, so I missed their performance as well.
Frank: This band unfortunately had to cancel their show last year due to a family tragedy, but more than made up for it this year. Singer Howard Jonesâ€™ voice was very good and the music sounded great. The band relied on songs of their old albums, but also played some songs of the last year released album Killswitch Engage (2).
After a long break in the shade and watching some football (Germany — UK) along with the metalheads in the artists/press area, I finally decided to walk through the sun to see Bloodbath in the Marquee I tent. Oh, what a great choice I made! We were informed that this was the 6th concert of the band, so that felt like a big honour to be there. The death metal delivered by the Swedes (a mix of Opeth and Katatonia members) was of excellent quality, but most of the show was made by Mikael Ã…kerfeldt and his long minutes of talking to the crowd. He told us that he was drunk, that the band is not very religious, that he didnâ€™t know wtf the song X is about, that another song was for stupid people like us and him, etc. They had a good selection of songs, which made the crowd really happy to be there and see them live.
Frank: Although I didnâ€™t know much about this band, I had heard great things about them. Arriving a little early in the tent, I noticed it was much more crowded than at other bands at the same time. As soon as the music started, a moshpit started, spanning from the left to the right of the stage. Except for the ones at Sick Of It All, these were the biggest Iâ€™ve seen in the tents this year. Allthough the band hasnâ€™t released anything in the last two years, they are still touring in support of this album. The fans didnâ€™t seem to mind there were no new songs and enjoyed all the classics.
Frank: Hatebreed was the crowd favorite in 2009 with their energetic shows. Like last year, they got the crowd going again, and put up an even better performance than the year before. From the first tones of In ashes they shall reap to the last tones of Destroy everything, everybody was jumping around.
I knew they are a band with an incredible show, but what I got to see there on Sunday evening was way above my expectations. Kiss played 2 years ago at Graspop, but now, being the last concert of the European leg of their tour, the band did each and every of their tricks and actually exceeded the allocated time by 40 minutes. They came on the stage from above, they fired a bazooka, flew over the crowd, set their guitars on fire, smashed a guitar, and many many more. The scene was packed with smaller or bigger monitors, each showing different images. The clothing were exactly as we see in all KISS photos, the makeup as well, and the tongue of Gene Simmons performed its own show. The drums went up in the air a couple of times, lifted by steam. The band had an encore of 40 minutes or so. They played all their hits, and everyone was singing along. They got the crowd to scream, either right or left side or all together, and got the loudest cheer in order to do the flight over the stage. I saw other musicians and, of course, people in the crowd, with their faces painted. And it was really funny to take a trip at the toilet and hear at least two guys singing as high pitched as possible along with the band. It was a mad concert and definitely the number one show of all the concerts Iâ€™ve ever been to. Perfect end for a great festival.
By Andrea Chirulescu and Frank Wijers