The musical side of things was no less amazing. We couldn’t fully rely on any verified names on the list and had to make our own fun, it wasn’t difficult to land a couple of really enjoyable gigs each day. Being there long before the festival started, we were aching to finally hear some quality live music. So when we heard loud and positively angry sounds coming from New Forces stage, someone opened up the festival app to check what fun awaits us. “Speed metal?” I wondered. “But that’s not even a living genre?” Apparently, Speed Metal is now a euphemism for doing whatever the fuck you want, according to Big Bad Wolf, who showed us a great time worthy of the raunchiest motorcycle gatherings. Stay heavy, boys, stay bad!
The first big day when all three stages were up and running started rather excitedly. Last year’s heroes of New Forces were now finally playing on the Main Stage. We asked – Ten Ton Slug delivered. It was early and it was hot, the sun set high didn’t prevent the most dedicated supporters from creating a sticky pit. Myself am a simple man – I see words like Doom and Sludge and take my ass there. Unlike another big hype name, TTS found themselves right at home on the big stage of MetalDays, while Alien Weaponry sadly didn’t deliver the same kind of energy that got us hooked on them last year. At times it felt like the big stage was… Too big for them? What Alien Weaponry does best is drawing out a man’s most primal instincts and sending him into the pit a raging monster. I guess the audience needs to be a little more compact for that to take full effect. Large amount of fans reported to have thoroughly enjoyed the gig so I’m sure they didn’t disappoint the ones most important to them.
Waiting for my personal stars of the day, a friend suggested seeing a band at Boško Bursać stage to kill the time. I agreed and we made our way there, talking about the savage riffs we were about to witness. Arriving at our destination, we indeed see a band preparing for their set, but it doesn’t look like we’re about to get smashed to bits, what is this? Turns out, my friend’s watch was left in a different time zone and the band we were going to see is already done packing their stuff. Darn! Our mood was instantly lifted by the leading lady of Rolo Tomassi, whose set we crashed and didn’t regret it. What an unexpected treasure! None of the powerful vocal styles of Eva Spence will leave you indifferent. I’m rarely the one for progs and cores, but I can say I’ve probably enjoyed Rolo Tomassi more than, let’s say, Dream Theater, who left their fans in a deep trance it took them days to recover from. While they didn’t do a lot for me personally; I couldn’t help but notice the deep, intricate longing emanating from the singer’s eyes. What do you long for, James? I hope you achieve it.
Personal stars of the day? Why, Neurosis, of course. And to think I said something about Dream Theater fans. Neurosis stretched me around like chewed up bubblegum. As another friend said, “I love Neurosis, but boy, are they drawn out”. The set was six or seven tracks long. After the fourth, we were giving it our final clap, completely fulfilled, ready to leave. And after the fifth. (When you finish, but she keeps…) I’d do it again any day.
Another very location-specific magic of Metaldays is the little hillside at the Main Stage area, which allows you to listen to an entire A-list concert… Lying down. Have a smoke, cuddle a loved one, bring a pillow, take a nap, the possibilities are limitless!
(A side note: If you were ever wondering what’s the correct way to attend a Cannibal Corpse concert, I discovered it last year. It’s lying down on the wet grass while it’s raining all over you and screaming “For the Horde!” after each song instead of clapping.)
Arch Enemy. I came, said “yep”, I left. This is a band I find very hard to have a personal relationship with, especially since the change of line-up. Regardless, the show was put together immaculately and the production level was almost as high as me during Dopelord. One thing that really confused me was that they cancelled the meet & greet session they scheduled, which isn’t inherently bad, but after checking the comment section, I discovered that absolutely nobody was surprised by this. Turns out, it’s quite common, as the band reportedly hates them. I thought to myself why not stop scheduling them altogether? You’re a big enough band to just say “Fuck you, we do what we want”. Then I realized the profile of their average fan probably wouldn’t allow for such a thing to stand and alas, they have to endure the occasional signing session after all. Not today, though!
The next day, I found myself hungry for some Main Stage action quite early, and who did I find there! It was last year’s acquaintances, Voice of Ruin, rocking out a phenomenal set to a rather engaged and more than convinced audience. It’s a sight to behold, when you’re sitting some distance from the whole affair and equally observe both the band and the crowd in front of it. It’s one thing to get your concert juice from being in the gist of the happening, but another to absorb it from the outside. I like both equally.
Shaken and waken, I was ready to start my day. It was now well after 4 pm, which means it was time to head over to New Forces and check out The Privateer. If it wasn’t obvious by now, I’m a massive bitch for all things pirate. This band was on my list faster than I was to the Indian food stand the day it opened. I arrived to an unusual scene. On stage is an absolute riot, a bunch in costumes is singing and dancing, there’s a violin (!), such good fun and for what audience? One observation check later, I determined there was, in fact, quite an audience, albeit hidden from the blazing sun in nooks around the stage, especially around the axe throwing polygon. The weather was unusually stable this year; we’ve had 8 days of temperatures between really hot and really fucking hot. That didn’t prevent this ship’s crew from spreading their infectious energy to us all. “Thank you so much guys, see you next year on the Main Stage!” were the last words we heard. I hope they ring true. This band is a thing and their merch is bling.
Finntroll was a blast as always. Nothing less and nothing more from Finland’s finest export.
By far the biggest surprise was undoubtedly Demons & Wizards. On the way to their gig, I realized I hadn’t done any research on them, so I grabbed the nearest person and asked them to tell me what’s going on. Apparently, members of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth had formed a band, years ago, and nobody told me. Not that I was asking, in my Power Metal phase, I was more of a Helloween fan than Blind Guardian’s. I reached Main Stage thinking it was going to be the same thing as with Arch Enemy – one song, then off to the food court for some therapeutic baked beans. Boy, was I wrong! I spent the entire set, down to the last song, shackled in place by the unbelievable positive energy of Hansi Kürsch. One word – love. Godly amounts of love were being sprinkled on us, his love for this band, for the music he makes. Pure, unadulterated childlike excitement and endless gratuity were oozing in pools from one man. This is what I like to see on stage the most; a person who looks like all their dreams came true at this very moment. Everything you could see, hear and feel was a direct product of this man’s raw passion for life and his calling in it. The concert left me fulfilled in a different way, like going on a blind date then really hitting it off.
I know my comparisons of Croatia to the civilized world are getting old, but hear me out. I spent too many months believing that God is an Astronaut aren’t a very good live band because I’ve only ever seen them play cramped in a tiny club with the shittiest sound system known to man. This was a catastrophically misguided impression. The Second Stage of MetalDays finally enabled them to properly blow my mind with both the music and the sensational light show. The stage also suited Gaahls Wyrd, who delivered a grim, enchanting performance in his own, mysterious style.
The whole affair came to an end quite gloriously. It was finally raining –and we hailed the rain by losing ourselves in Korpiklaani‘s most beautiful ballads. The awaited second part of the set, the one with all the jovial hits, was about to start. We ran to the front of the battlefield and threw ourselves into action. Korpiklaani must’ve done something extremely pagan to invoke the wrath of the ancient Slavic god, Tesla, for his punishment was swift and merciless. Not just the stage, not just the festival either, the entire Tolmin area was left in pitch-black darkness for over ten minutes. Minor panic ensued during the power outage. People who didn’t participate in the biggest silent moshpit I’ve ever witnessed were asking important questions. Will we ever see our families again, or more importantly, will we see Dimmu Borgir? Of course we will. Last time I’ve seen Dimmu was also my first concert experience that didn’t go as smoothly. It was during a time when the relations between Croatia and Slovenia were particularly bad and the equipment trucks got halted at the border, causing the concert to be several hours delayed. The band pulled a professional move – an impromptu signing session, minus Shagrath. Looking back, the concert has terrible reviews. The audience was extremely disinterested after the delay ruined everything, but not for 12 year old me. I was in a state of bliss. A whole new world opened up to me, signed ticket in hand, I marched right home to lecture my parents on the differences between first and second-wave Black Metal before they told me to go the fuck to sleep.
This is the exact emotion I was yearning to feel again. I know it’s not only cliché but almost always futile to try and recreate childhood memories, but I went ahead and tried anyway. One sprained shoulder tendon later, I can confirm a shining success. Ending not just this concert, not just this day, but the entire damn event with “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” sent me soaring to the skies.