Zur deutschen Version geht es hier.
After more than two years, we finally had the opportunity to fill the Harz-Mountains with good music again at the beginning of July! Even though I caught the bad „C“ while being there, which is why you had to wait a bit for my experiences, it was immensely fun to be back. you can get excited for my exciting day-to-day reports and insightful interviews which I’ll be posting here in the days and weeks to come.
But let’s get started with Day 1, Wednesday!
Thanks to lightinmirror.de for the awesome pictures!
Pre-skirmish and Merch-Gate
For the first time, Wednesday was a full-on festival day and the possibility to set-up camp on Tuesday was very well used! Since I am from the area and had the opportunity to sleep in a real bed (Sue me!) I was fortunately not caught up in any of this. To me, the campground looked very organized and it’s only natural that someone among the more than 20.000 guests might not have been happy with how things were handled.
I used the daily parking spots, for which I didn’t have to pay anything even though it said on the festival’s website that daily parking would cost 5€. Luckily for me, I could get my press wristband right next to the parking space without much waiting. It was wonderful to already see some familiar faces right there. That really gives you a homey feeling!
Equipped with my wristband and all my other stuff, I ventured into the infield for the first time. It’s bigger than in the years before and that really took me back a bit. The feeling of being here again after all these years was almost spiritual.
Before I got to the festival, I had read online that the merch booth would be accessible from both the infield and the campground. I had hope that this would significantly reduce the wait times and people would get their products faster. You know what they say though: Hope dies last… but it dies! The cue on Wednesday was immense on both sides. Towards the campgrounds there were barriers guiding the people into a more organized line, but that didn’t really help. The people were queuing a long way into the campgrounds.
On the other side, it didn’t look that much better. People were crowded along the width of the merch booth and waited a long time to be served.
If you attended Rockharz in the pre-pandemic years, you know that this is a long-existing problem. I feel like the double-sided merch booth aided in the handling of the crowds on Thursday and the days that followed, but the staff was just not capable of dealing with the masses swarming the booth on Tuesday and Wednesday. It might worth to think about some pre-ordering for the attending people so that not all the festival goers will have to buy their merch at the festival but rather buy a portion beforehand and simply picking it up later at the festival. That worked quite well for the Dark Easter Metal Meeting this year.
At this point, I want to extend my deep gratitude to my friend Sarah who queued and got me my merch on Wednesday so that I was able to have my first interview!
Overall, I think it’s important to also highlight how nice the staff was! Everyone was super friendly! From the security people to the people in the trenches in front of the stages to the people serving the festival guests, there was absolutely no one who was rude or off-putting! Thank you for that!
What about the music??
But I don’t want to bore you any longer with these boring things and will therefore come to the reason why we’ve made our way to Ballenstedt: The music!
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the first two bands of the day, MUTZ & THE BLACKEYED BANDITZ and SIBIIR, I was just preoccupied with other things. I was however very excited for TWILIGHT FORCE. The Swedes from Falun were very significant in my early metal days. The quirky mix of Lord of the Rings costumes and christmas-carol-like melodies has a very enthralling entertainment character!
But the sound was horrible! I could hear their singer like four times over at the point where I was watching the show… What happened??? That was really a bummer… It got better towards the end of the set but that really took the fun out of it…
Luckily, it was all the better when the Belgian band EVIL INVADERS took the stage and they KILLED it! For real, this was so insanely good! Pure power, amazing guitar action and looks that bring you back into the times of which our parents always say „It wasn’t all so bad back then!“. The audience was equally ecstatic. The song choices, which also contained material from their last album Shattering Reflections, were everything. If you ask me, they could have easily played for more a longer time than they actually did!
After AGNOSTIC FRONT, GRAVE DIGGER and BEAST IN BLACK took the stage, it was finally time for another highlight: KATAKLYSM. The death metal band was very keen on playing after this pandemic prevented them from doing so and you could feel it! A true guitar inferno was just the right thing to ring in this evening’s headliners.
Speaking of headliners: I realized recently that my blog is really lacking female representation. Luckily I can mend that, at least a bit, today. The first headline performance came from none other that the former NIGHTWISH singer TARJA. The first song, Dead Promises, really got to me!
Even though the rest of the set wasn’t really my cup of tea, I was very captivated by her presence on stage and her voice.
My impression of the metal scene is that us women, especially those fronting bands, have work harder for the same kind of recognition that our male counterparts get. TARJA does just that with a grace and elegance that puts a lot of other artists to shame. You can almost feel her experience and calm nature and that makes the show very professional and tight. I can only recommend it to everyone to go see her show even though it wasn’t my music.
The contrast between TARJA’s serene voice and the following SEPULTURA couldn’t have been bigger! The Brazilian thrash band is known for their impact on the scene and thus it wasn’t a big surprise to see the infield being packed to the max. It was my first time actually seeing them live and it was AMAZING from start to the end! I could have listened to it for a lot longer! The mood was however dimmed since guitarist Andreas Kisser was unable to attend. His wife Patricia had just passed away which was the reason he chose not to go on tour, which was absolutely understandable. The band played an amazing set that was dedicated to the deceased and contained a number of songs from my favorite album Chaos A.D. I’m sending my deepest condolences and all the strength in the world to the grieving family in these hard times!
Before you even realized it, it was time for IN EXTREMO to close out the evening, which they did in their true fashion! What a first day!
If you want to read more about the festival, stay tuned for the coming days! I will publish more reports on each festival day and after that, you’ll find a number of awesome interviews!