Live Covarage || Summer Breeze Open Air 2023

  Remember when Modern Life Is War said "another punk rock summer came and went"? Well if we slightly paraphrase that, it could easily sum up the summer of 2023 for me. After being initiated to Jera On Air, I was excited to return to one of my all-time favorite festivals, Summer Breeze Open Air. I first visited the (un)holy grounds in the summer of 2019, and was unfortunately unable to attend last year's edition. The tables turned however and on August 16th I found myself in Dinkelsbühl once more.

Words & pictures: Dearohwell photography

Day 01 - Wednesday

The first day is usually slow; visitors arrive, set up camp, socialize, crack a few beers open and at around 4pm the infield is ready to accommodate fans. I started the afternoon with a band I had never checked out before, Corvus Corax. The band received a warm welcome from fans who had already gathered under the hot sun on the main stage. It was an interesting start, for sure. Up next was Gatecreeper at the T-stage. I had been really looking forward to catching them play, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Their sound was solid, as was their performance, with the members hyping the crowd non-stop. I genuinely love it when bands are able to bring the metalheads and Impericon kids together in the pit. Malevolence was also in my list for the day. While it's not a band that I enjoy musically, their shows are always explosive. The Sheffield quintet looked very happy to be on stage, and kept inviting people to move as a birthday present to the guitarist. Their wish was granted, with constant circle pits and crowdsurfers keeping security busy. 

I'm not gonna lie, the band I was looking forward to seeing (and shooting) the most that day was Epica. I knew the Dutchies would have a big stage production and after catching glimpses of online footage all summer, I knew they would be at the top of their game. And indeed they were; this was one of the best shows I've seen them playing, with singer Simone Simons delivering an excellent vocal performance and the rest of the band posing and messing with each other. The setlist was great, also including some songs I wasn't expecting to hear ("Essence Of Silence", Martyr Of The Free Word", "Code Of Life") and of course the legendary "Cry For The Moon", which they've probably "played a million times". Simone asked the fans to participate in their "karaoke", singing "forever and ever" with her. The show ended with "Beyond The Matrix" and "Consign To Oblivion", as always. Insane show; 10/10 would recommend.

I was also able to check Ad Infinitum out for the first time. They had a pretty good turnout and while their stage presence is quite impressive, I must admit that they're not my cup of tea at all. It was time for the architects of thrash metal, Megadeth, to teach the younger artists what being prolific means. With a very captivating intro playing on the video walls, we experienced a brief glimpse of the band's discography. Megadeth took the stage under heavy applause and overflowing enthusiasm from the crowd. I particularly enjoyed how the video walls enhanced the performance, creating an immersive feeling. Quick run to the T stage to satisfy my teenage craving of finally seeing Soilwork. And it wasn't good. While the band did their best, unfortunately their mix was abysmal, especially in the start of the set. It gradually got better but I still believe it never reached its full potential. Combine that with the fact that the band doesn't use in-ears but earplugs instead, and it also justifies vocalist Björn Strid sounded out of key at times. With exhaustion taking over, I didn't stick around any longer and returned to my tent for some well-deserved rest.

Day 02 - Thursday

I started the day catching Blackbriar out of curiosity. The band is worth the hype, as the turnout proved despite the sun and early slot. They're still not my cup of tea though. I also randomly caught League Of Distortion, whom I had never listened to before. I was quite impressed with their amazing balls-to-the-wall heavy metal and attitude, although I must admit it took me a minute to recognize who the vocalist, Anna Brunner, was and how I knew her (hint: Exit Eden). I'm definitely keeping an eye out for them. On to the main stage for one of the most anticipated shows of the day, the almighty Terror. If you know me, you know that I consider them the best live hardcore band of our time and that's a hill I'm willing to die on. Judging by the fans who kept moshing under the hard sun, I'd say more people share this opinion. Their setlist was dope ("Pain Into Power", "Spit My Rage", "Stick Tight", "Always the Hard Way", "One With The Underdogs"), fueling the circle pits while the band themselves (especially bassist Chris Linkovich) gave a pretty solid performance. 

I caught Storm Seeker randomly while killing time and I regret nothing. The pirate crew was having a blast, always smiling, even the singer who was way overdressed for the weather and almost had a heatstroke. The folk metal audiences are always very welcoming and were eager to participate and row, to show their excitement. Speaking of folk metal, it wouldn't be a German festival without the likes of Versengold. The band is celebrating their 20th anniversary with a brand new album scheduled to hit the streets later this year, and their show couldn't be anything but explosive. I didn't stick around for the entire set due to the weather, but what I witnessed was very enjoyable. I returned to the main stage about an hour later to see Stick To Your Guns. The second time seeing them this year was equally majestic; the Orange County outfit took no prisoners as they performed all their classic bangers despite the rain or missing guitarist Chris Rawson. Vocalist Jesse Barnett invited fans to continue moving, and they happily obliged from the first notes of "Nobody" until the very end. The setlist was full of fan-favorite hits ("Nobody", "Nothing You Can Do To Me", "Amber", "Married To The Noise", "Such Pain", "Bringing You Down", "Against Them All"), also paying homage to the album "Diamond" turning 10. 

Off to the T stage for Wolfheart. I was quite curious to see the Finnish melodeath band and they certainly didn't disappoint. Wolfheart have made a name for themselves in the last decade and the warm reception of their latest album, "King Of The North", is definitely a testament to their craft and that hard work pays off. Back to the main stage to shoot Beartooth and then a much needed break, with Obituary blasting in the distance. By the time Trivium went on stage, the temperature had dropped, with a lingering humidity. The metalcore powerhouse wasn't fazed however; their show was a formidable experience, with the band smiling the entire time and vocalist Matt Heafy stating that this was the best show they'd played in Germany ever. Unfortunately their sound wasn't very favorable and at times the mix sounded muffled. Trivium had also welcomed back bassist Paolo Gregoletto who underwent emergency surgery the days prior to the show and, being a real trooper, made it back on stage despite convalescing. On my way to grab a drink I stumbled upon a band I didn't know at the Rebel stage and I was so blown away that I stuck around for the remainder of their set. The act was Kanonenfieber, a German black/death metal band, who also happened to be the only act I've seen bringing intense pyros in the small stage. Their sound was excellent, while the ferocity of the compositions gathered a good audience, even if some like myself were there out of pure curiosity.

Amenra was scheduled to play the T stage and let me tell you, their show is always a religious experience. Their stage presence was terse, with just a projector hitting the stage and minimal lighting, and almost zero interaction with the crowd. Despite the medium turnout, their performance was cathartic and their sound definitely enhanced the overall emotive show. I stuck around the T stage for AHAB, who switched places with Bloodbath (and I didn't mind it, if I'm being completely honest). Although not my usual cup of tea, I was quite intrigued by the way their slow and intense compositions, combined with the smokes and lightshow, created diverse soundscapes. A captivating show, to say the least. My last stop for the day (I'm getting old, folks, I don't do well with late nights anymore) was Groza. I missed their Greek show and my friend insisted that I shouldn't miss their festival performance -and he was quite on point. Their melodic black metal was quite engaging and really made me regret not seeing them at an intimate show were the mystified atmosphere would have been even more intense.

Day 03 - Friday

I kicked off the day with Nasty opening the main stage. It's always a pleasure seeing these guys annihilate the stage -and of course their promotion from the T stage in 2019 didn't go unnoticed. Their crowd was quite alive despite the sun, but it wasn't until "At War With Love" that things got more heated. Vocalist Matthi Tarnath also paid a couple of visits to the barrier to share the mic with his fans. Up next on the main stage was Skalmold, who was releasing a new album that day and were planning to celebrate on stage. Their show started with smoke and artificial snow, which was quite impressive, and no one seemed to mind the slight delay. I had never seen them prior to that but I feel that I'll be checking them out again in the future. Swedish metalcore heroes Imminence were the next act in the diversity showcased on the main stage. I was a little familiar with the band but I never expected their show to be that good. The band didn't stop moving for a second, inspiring the audience to crowdsurf and mosh, while vocalist Eddie Berg demonstrated his impeccable singing and violin-playing abilities. 

Off to the T stage to see Orbit Culture, another band dropping an album that day. They were as tight as I remembered and the audience appeared to enjoy their technical madness. Back to the main stage for Lionheart. Having already seen them at Jera On Air a couple of months prior so I had already absorbed that energy. They are always a force of nature but I do feel that this time around my craving was already satisfied and I didn't fully enjoy their performance. One of the most anticipated bands I wanted to catch was Fit For An Autopsy. Having seen them last spring, and still listening to "Oh What The Future Holds" on heavy rotation, I made my way ahead of time to the T stage. As soon as they blasted "A Higher Level Of Hate" people (myself included) lost it. FFAA made kids move form the get go with vocalist Joe Badolato sounding exactly as he does on record. On "Savages" they thanked the savages from all over the world who made it to the festival, and closed the set with "Pandora" and "Far From Heaven". 

Another band I was eager to see was Drain. After releasing a very promising album in the spring and having built insane hype around their name, the hardcore quartet definitely lived up to my expectations. Their energetic show was on point, with the vocalist inviting the crowd to participate more and more, to the point where about a hundred kids defied security and climbed on stage to party with Drain. Now that's what I call a hardcore show. On to the main stage for While She Sleeps. The Sheffield outfit are currently at the height of their career and performed a memorable show packed with fan favorite hits. I must admit that I had missed them; with the larger than life vocalist Loz Taylor posing for the cameras, and guitarist Mat Welsh jumping and singing his heart out. The crowd was also very receptive, constantly moving, and keeping security guards at the front busy throughout the set.

Took some pictures of Germany's latest sensation, Beyond The Black, and a little later, as the sun went down the wolves came out to party. Powerwolf made a grand entrance with "Faster Than The Flame" and -as expected- a ton of pyros and fireworks. This was my first time seeing them (and I was really bummed I wasn't able to shoot them) and I was really looking forward to the experience; the big stage production, the catchy choruses and the huge singalongs and howlings from the thousands of people who made their way to the main stage. The setlist consisted of quite successful best-of choices, while singer Attila Dorn kept hyping up the crowd. It was unfortunate that Powerwolf clashed with Knocked Loose, seeing as the American noisemakers didn't attract such a huge audience. I also believe that, even though KL is breaking big in the States and as of late in Europe, such a prestigious slot at a metal festival may not have been the best choice. Their sound sits at a weird edge, where they're too hardcore for traditional metalheads and too metallic for hardcore fans... I guess we can agree that in general KL is an acquired taste. The show was quite tight but even I failed to stick around until the end. To my dismay I had to skip Elueitie's show but Gaerea made up for that. It was the second time seeing the Portuguese blacksters this year -also one of the shows I was really looking forward to that day. The faceless band was at the top of their game, as they were wrapping up their European festival run before heading out to the US. Gaerea is breaking big and quite deservedly; they released a phenomenal album last year, fans show their support and appreciation, and their live shows are dope. The vocalist is insanely expressive in his fluid body movement, something between a contortionist and a dancer. Towards the end of the set, he changed his face cover with a golden one, previously teased on social media. The set ended with "Laude", and the chilling cry "WE ARE GAEREA".

Off to the T stage for Abbath. My aforementioned friend suggested that I checked them too and, once more, he was right. The band's show went on seamlessly, with a varied crowd enjoying the misty atmosphere. Halfway through the set, Abbath invited fans to "harvest the pyre", which is usually code for firebreathing. I must admit the spectacle was very impressive and I'm glad I was able to immortalize the moment. And with that, I left the infield with heavy feet but a full heart.

Day 04 - Saturday

I started my day checking Nervosa out for the first time. I wasn't a fan of the show and I feel that the constant lineup changes in the last couple of years have taken a toll on the band's chemistry. Next band on the T stage was Deez Nuts. If you know me, you've probably heard me saying multiple times that this band has grown on me overtime and I always enjoy their shows. On this festival, the band was playing with No Warning's Jesse Labovitz on drums and without bass but you still couldn't tell from the vivacity of the performance. JJ Peters was inviting people to dance and kept striking poses for the photographers. People were responsive, with a multitude of crowdsurfers keeping security busy and a best-of setlist full of old and new tracks ("Band Of Brothers", "Crooked Smile", "Shot After Shot", "I Hustle Every Day", "Binge & Purgatory" dedicated to the late Sean Kennedy, "Face This On My Own"). 

Another band I was really keen to check was Brand of Sacrifice. I was planning to catch them on a tour last year but unfortunately they had to withdraw. The band went on under the Pokemon theme song so we all knew immediately we were in or a great time. The Canadians played an electrifying show, making their audience go nuts. Up next was Dragonforce at the main stage, proving that Nintendocore is still alive. If I'm being honest I only stuck around out of curiosity, having jumped briefly on the hype train as a teenager. Unfortunately as intriguing their stage production might have been, I have outgrown them musically. Craving more noise on the final day, I patiently waited for Hatebreed. Having already seen them at Jera back in June, I knew exactly what to expect. The band was on the last show of their summer tour and tried making Summer Breeze as memorable as possible. While they didn't match the intensity of their Jera performance, they still managed to wage war, also celebrating the 20th anniversary of their iconic album "The Rise Of brutality". Fans wouldn't stop moshing as they heard banger after banger ("Destroy Everything", "Live For This", "This Now", "Smash Your Enemies" dedicated to the old-school people, "As Diehard As They Come"). Quick walk around to get a refreshment, also checking Tankard for a couple of songs, and back to the main stage for Killswitch Engage. It's been ten years already (I'm still not sure how) since our last encounter, so I wouldn't miss this show for the world. The band came on with "My Curse" and hit us straight in the feels. Their show was top notch, with bassist Mike D'Antonio raging and posing, singer Jesse Leech delivered powerful vocals, while guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz proclaimed how happy he was to be "drunk in a field in Bavaria with strangers". And frankly, we believe him. I was quite amazed by the fact that, even though KSE already had a big audience, people were curious enough to stop and check them out. Old-school fans like myself drowned in waves of nostalgia as the band performed "Arms Of Sorrow", "My Last Serenade" and of course "The End Of Heartache" towards the end. Amazing.

After that, I headed to the Rebel stage to check Iotunn out. The Danish band was on my radar since I started planning my schedule. Their progressive-nuanced music was quite interesting, with a versatile vocalist alternating between powerful cleans and and chilling screams. Quick dinner stop catching a glimpse of Decapitated, who in my humble opinion deserved a better audience, and then off to check Marduk. Controversial band, controversial opinions, BUT in my defense it was mainly the huge, borderline dangerous, pyros that attracted me like a moth. Ok the set was quite intense too although a little heavy for the final day. Off to see my last band of the festival, Get The Shot. The Canadians also played Summer Breeze in 2019, at the same stage, but quite early in the day so it was nice to see them too being promoted to a later slot. As expected, their show was nothing short of energetic, with a more-buff-than-ever vocalist jumping on the barricade and into the crowd for every single song. Nothing new here. Their sound was on point, making them the perfect way to end the festival.

Overall, my first post-pandemic Summer Breeze was nothing short of amazing. I am really looking forward to returning to Dinkelsbühl next year!

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