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Into The Grave Festival, Leeuwarden, Holland
8th August 2015

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

into the grave

The town of Leeuwarden in northern Holland holds not one rock and Metal festival in a square in the town centre but two on consecutive days. When the smoke has cleared from the Cityrock festival headlined by Epica the previous day the banners are changed on the stage and the site becomes host to the heavier Into The Grave festival.

This festival gets it's name as it is held on the site of an old graveyard but there is plenty of life here mid afternoon when I arrive. Already busy it looks like this will be the more popular of the two festivals.

Having had a late night I was a bit slow to get going so I only arrived in time to catch the last couple of songs from French Metal/deathcore band Betraying The Martyrs. They are suitably loud and growly and make an impressive noise all the more remarkable as it emanates from a stage under the lee of a church spire. They are a bit shouty for my tastes to be honest but seemed to go down very well indeed.

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Audrey Horne were much more of a melodic traditional rock kind of thing but the large crowd gathered around didn't seem to mind one bit. Some of the members of this Norwegian outfit have a history in black Metal bands but in this guise they are all about melodic rock with a hard edge and do a fine job of adding a rock groove to the vibe of the day. Singer Torkjell Red gets the crowd singing and clapping and enjoying themselves in the sun. I didn't really hear any tunes in their set likely to become rock classics but they were a fine addition of some melody into what was going to be a full on Metal day.

Some bands just have a swagger to them, a total self belief which just oozes out of them on a stage and Avatar from Sweden proved to have that by the bucketload. From the intro where the band stand silently before the crowd in their circus outfits before picking up their instruments to singer Johannes Michael Gustaf Eckerstrom(believe me he deserves a big name) striding across the stage with facepaint on and swinging a cane they show they mean to make an impact. Eckerstrom's announcement that "We are Avatar and we just stole the show" is certainly designed to add to the drama.

into the grave

Whether they stole the show or not is open to argument(reactions to them were certainly mixed in my group) but I loved the theatricality and in Eckerstrom they have a fine Metal ringmaster with tremendous stagecraft and he had the audience just where he wanted them throughout.

Musically their death 'n' roll is a pounding industrial tinged beast but with some good songs to hang their circus hats on I thought their brand of vaudeville meets Metal madness was a lot of fun.

into the grave

Ensiferum's take on roaring folk Metal has never been to my taste so I chose to miss their set while enjoying some cold beers in the hot sun but I was back in time to catch some of Obituary. I will admit that shouty death Metal isn't really my thing and while I enjoyed their sub Metallica riffing thing the vocals and general vibe didn't really grab me so I left them to enjoy the rest of the crowd's warm response and left the arena in search of some non fast food.

Unfortunately it took a lot longer to get a good meal and return to the arena than I planned as the town was very busy so I managed to miss Cannibal Corpse's set completely. Another band who aren't really up my alley but I would have liked to see them ripping it up right under a church spire, surely a bizarre sight!

into the grave

Sepultura drew what turned out to be the biggest crowd of the day. Ticket sales were around seven and a half thousand and I have to say it made the little square we were in a pretty cosy place to be when they all decided to check out the Brazilian veterans.

This is Sepultura's 30th anniversary tour and I and probably most of the crowd gathered there were looking forward to a celebration of the band's history and it being a festival pretty much a greatest hits set. What the band gave us was certainly a trawl through the band's history going so far as to air 'Inner Self' from 'Beneath The Remains' but I have to admit I still hark back to the Cavalera era of the band so could do without some of the newer songs in the set like 'Sepultura Under My Skin' which just don't cut it in this atmosphere.

into the grave

The whole presentation of the set came across as lacklustre with even classics like 'Territory' feeling almost thrown away and it is only the grooves of final song 'Roots Bloody Roots' which really gets the crowd going at all. Disappointing.

Some of the crowd did get going after that, possibly encouraged by the massive crush of people caused by the organisers placing the only exit, the entrance to the only toilet area and one of only two beer tents within a few yards of each other! A slightly less packed arena awaited headliners Sabaton then but it was noticeable that it was mostly the younger audience members and the party erupted from the very opening salvo of 'Ghost Division' and 'To Hell And Back'.

into the grave

These Swedes may sing of war and destruction but they have a well deserved reputation as a fun live band and there are a lot of laughs to be had tonight. When the crowd chants for singer Joakim Broaden to take his pants off and put them on his head(a running joke between band and fans) he instead puts a bright red pair thrown at him on instead. Who says singers always need to look cool?

I actually thought that maybe they took the fun a little too far tonight wasting too much time on an obviously rehearsed skit about the band starting up a song that wasn't on the set list but really this is a minor league issue. Sabaton are a band who will make you smile and make you laugh and make you sing along at the top of your voice to the likes of 'Panzerkampf'. You will punch your fists in the air to 'Resist And Bite' and by the time they close with the inevitable 'Primo Victoria' most of the crowd are bouncing up and down despite the long, hot day.

For me Sabaton easily showed why they get to headline these kind of festivals now, they were a fitting end to a great day of Metal in the sunshine.




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