After a two-year break, Metal Dayz once again took place in Z7, Pratteln. And why travel such a long way to Wacken, when many of the bands going there were also at Z7? At least this saved me from the lengthy journey to Germany.
The festival was held in smaller quarters, but on the whole was very pleasant, friendly and informal. Despite there being an opportunity to camp or sleep in the hall, it´s something I would not recommend, as that entails sleeping on the floor among beer cans and the stomach contents of other festival attendees. To this end I decided on taking a room at the nearby Etap Hotel, particularly with this cold and wet weather.
On two stages, one outdoors and one in, the bands played alternately. In this way it was possible to see every band, and the headbangers could let their manes flow in an almost never-ending circle. The lineup for this year went as follows:
AEONBLACK (Open air stage)
This band had the difficult task of opening the festival proceedings, which is not easy most of the time, and in this case as well. Those watching kept to the edges and only around 50 people stood in front of the stage. There was enough space that people could move around comfortably while Aeonblack played their powerful brand of power metal. Their setlist was also tight and well-crafted, one of the most important factors when considering their 30-minute allotted time.
DARK DAY DUNGEON (Indoor)
The death-thrash on offer from Dark Day Dungeon was monotonous to say the least, everything following a similar spiritless pattern and lacking a certain something to give it the extra oomph. Their performance onstage (including clothes and mannerisms) were reminiscent of a hip hop combo, which is perhaps a crass comparison but that was certainly the case, and it certainly didn´t succeed in winning the audience over. Only on the last song were a odd few heads beginning to nod along in time.
THE DREAMSIDE (Open air stage)
These Dutch boys and girl are sworn to their goth-rock craft, blended with electronica elements, and played it incredibly well. Their clothes and masks were also something a bit different, but suited to their sound. Unfortunately you could barely hear the voice of frontwoman Kemi Vita, which dampened the experience as a whole. This is truly a shame considering a quote from a music professional which I read, stating that "her voice is better than those of either Tarja Turunen or Anneke van Giesbergen".
In the meantime, the grounds had started to fill up and the mood could not have been better. That said, the blood alcohol level was rising which interfered with the next band.
CRUCIFIED BARBARA (Indoor)
The male part of the audience in Z7 found themselves in a state of emergency when the four sexy girls from Sweden took to the stage, for they perform their songs without intending that their music be taken too seriously. Between songs I constantly heard the words "undress, undress!" from the predominantly male audience. You could almost literally smell the testosterone in the room. The success of these ladies seems to center mostly around their appearance, because aside from the covers of Motörhead and others, the music was pretty monotonous. That said, they´re worth watching in concert, although the guys in the audience may have another reason for looking...
And those who wanted to see the four beauties up close, either to get a photo with them or even to content themselves with an autograph, could get all of this by the open air stage where there was a stand to hold signing sessions.
DEADSOUL TRIBE (Open air)
After the audience were in full swing during the Swedes´ set, a little cooling down was in order. Devon Graves and his boys let the crowd down gently from their high-altitude flight, playing mostly tracks from their last two albums like “Waiting In Line” or “My Dying Wish”. Their melancholic prog offered strong rhythms and a resounding voice that took the attendees on quite the journey.
For me this was the absolute highlight of the evening; Blaze “the Madman” Bayley. Metal at its finest with a voice like his, nothing more can be said. With an incredible amount of energy and power, and the right amount of insanity, Mr. Bayley performed his songs like no-one else can. It seems almost tradition that Blaze plays at Metal Dayz now; when the man himself climbs the stage props to get closer to his fans, and delivers fantastic performances of Iron Maiden classics like “Man On The Edge”, all inhibitions are removed and the crowd turn into a crazy mob. Absolutely fantastic.
GURD (Open air)
The thrash troop from Switzerland were successful in tempting both fans and potential fans out into the rain to sing along with metal hymns such as “The Grand Deception”. I must confess I was not there, but do not begrudge me for catching a little breather in the hall where it was dry (and where you could hear the songs perfectly well) to be in top shape for the stars of the evening.
The icing on the cake this evening, running until 2am, was bestowed to us by Rage. With their rocking metal riffs in songs like “Straight to Hell” and “Don´t Fear The Winter”, they delighted the audience. It was a very successful show, although they could have dropped the 20-minute drum solos and 10-minute guitar solos for something else.
Unfortunately, everything must come to an end except the weather gods, who seemed to be pulling a night shift to let it continue raining. Thankfully Metal Dayz still had two days to go, so I did the sensible thing and made the short walk to the hotel to grab some sleep.
Bouncing with energy, I made my way over to the festival grounds and saw that I wasn´t the only one who had crawled out of bed. Several metalheads were already at the bar to take care of breakfast or get a coffee down them.
The roaring sound of Swiss death metallers Arkhan was a fun accompaniment to kickstart your Saturday breakfast. The lads played with gusto and put on a great show.
FELSKINN (Open air)
The guys from home turf played first-rate and highly melodic rock-metal. Their singer Andy Portmann had a very clear and expressive voice, which can be attributed to his vocal training and involvement in musicals. To add to this impressive résumé, he was also a backing singer for Krokus and has been a lyricist for several bands. However, the person onstage who impressed me the most was bassist Sarah Zaug, whose 20 years of age was no barrier to an outstanding performance that brought a certain freshness to the band.
All those who know Atritas were curious to hear the new song that they brought to Z7. Unfortunately they failed to win over many with their abilities. What was in theory a great concept didn´t quite leave the starting line, both musically and vocally; the keyboardist in particular lacked variety in the songs. In addition, the leading lady seemed quite bored while her colleagues were giving their all. “Hysteria” seems to be the wrong name for a woman who gives the impression that she isn´t really onboard with or interested in the music.
DISPARAGED (Open air)
A thick guitar sound, booming bass, (kesselnd?) drumming and a grunt that sends shivers up the spine. After having seen these guys many times lives, I must say this was Disparaged´s finest hour. Singer Tom Kuzmic experimented with his voice as always, a part of what makes him always a joy to listen to. When “The Plague” arrived, long hair started to fly with mine included, despite the pouring rain. Definitely one of the best Swiss death metal bands around.
These Italians were unafraid to completely rip the piss out of ´true metal´ and its related genres and drag it through the mud, all the while dressed up like drag queens. This struck me as something akin to Scary Movie True Metal or metal à la Mel Brooks. In any case they provide a great party atmosphere, although not my cup of tea. I simply can´t get behind the parody aspects when there´s such good musicianship and great songs being wasted.
PURE INC. (Open air)
A straightforward band summed up with the sweet phrase, “let´s rock”. A great sound peppered with rocking guitar riffs and a strong voice from singer Gianni Pontillo makes for a potent combination. Their likable performance also inspired many to sing along; no wonder then that they were selected as support band for Michael Schenker with such a great show.
VANDEN PLAS VS. CRUCIFIED BARBARA (Indoor)
Vanden Plas should have played a set here, but unfortunately they had to pull out at last minute due to drummer Andreas Lill injuring his hand. However, the four lovely Swedes from Crucified Barbara jumped up to lend a hand and make the hearts of the men in the room beat a little faster. For all the disappointed Vanden Plas fans there was, at least, the promised signing session, which the fans greeted with thunderous applause.
MYSTIC PROPHECY (Open air)
Treating the public to their high-octane power metal and melodic, dark songs like “Shadow Beyond My Soul” and “In The Darkness”, these metallers are always able to get everybody fired up and singing along, although the crowd would have done so anyway. They rounded out with "In Hell", where everyone joined in for a rousing chorus, and gave the guys a crowning send-off.
I needed an urgent break, and so GOD DETHRONED and AFTER ALL had to carry on without me, but it did allow me enough time to set up my camera in time for the next act.
Fascinating power metal with a certain darkness and depressive melancholy drawn from melodic death metal. It is something that only Finnish bands can pull off, something that runs in their blood; this is exemplified in the voice of ex-Ensiferum singer Jari Mäenpää, which enhances the sophisticated music and somehow totally harmonizes with it. Not only does he dominate the songwriting, but also the guitar, bass and keyboards. He is matched on the drums by Kai Hahto, considered one of the best drummers of the Finnish scene, who could not be more convincing or faster on the skins. That said, bassist Teemu Mäntysaari (who is also a young talent) and Jukka Koskinen are no strangers to the scene and also proficient with their instruments. A superb show with great audience participation, and unfortunately far too short a set.
BRAINSTORM (Open air)
Brainstorm were ready over on the main stage to warm us up with their power-filled power metal, and they achieved this with no issue at all, also thanks to the wonderful voice of singer Andy B. Franck. A bunch of people were dancing around at the front, and the venue filled up quickly, forcing me to watch from afar but at least sheltered from the rain and cold. I have seen these guys many times before, and this definitely will not be the last.
I am honestly not sure how many times I have seen Epica live, but every time they still hit the sweet spot with their perfectly-executed gothic metal sound, working in harmony with each other so well that it is a joy to listen to them. However, singer Simone Simons no longer does it for me due to her voice and her performance style. She should avoid the high notes when singing live, because she rarely hits them and when she does, they´re far from perfect. She should also concentrate more on her fellow bandmates than herself, so she can stop wandering around clumsily during certain vocal sections. She would also do well to leave the cooling fan alone, as by now we all know what her hair looks like when floating in a breeze.
DARK FUNERAL (Open air)
Those of a squeamish nature would have done well to avoid going outside, where Swedish black metallers were spawning their dark and brutal sound for those who like it hard. With their painted faces and ironclad costumes in the red light onstage, these guys looked as though they were burning in hellfire.
JON OLIVA´S PAIN (Indoor)
One of the greatest heavy metallers, and a genius in his field with an impressive voice, he creates simply wonderful music. And naturally he has also picked up a strong fanbase, who are more than willing to join in, particularly with "Warriors" and "Gutter Ballet". By the time the final notes of "If I Go Away" ring out, it is 3am and the hall has started to empty. There were more people today than on Friday, people who had traveled from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and even from Belgium. The atmosphere today surpassed everything else, and the party could easily have gone on that little bit longer.
Today was the final countdown, and it bucketed down. Armed with an umbrella, I took to the stage and, as it turned out, was too late to see ANXIETY´s brand of hard rock/melodic metal, only catching their last song.
DARKMOON (Open air)
Playing on the open air stage, they were unable to rouse much of the crowd out of their tents with their brand of deathrash, not aided by the fact that you could hear them perfectly well in the hall, where it was dry.
CREEPING VENGEANCE (Indoor)
On the indoor stage, Creeping Vengeance kicked off with their own deathrash, which was not bad at all but somehow didn´t fit the mood of the audience, who were either too tired or too hungry, or it simply boiled down to the fact that only a few managed to find their way across the grounds with the torrential rain.
EXCENTRIC (Open air)
The lads from Basel attracted more people out into the rain than expected, and with them came a few fans, who were ready to party with them and their heavy rock sound. The voice of Pivi R. Pieren left little room for complaint, and his friendly smile was thoroughly infectious. Overall the band exuded a wonderful charisma during their show, which was completely in line with their sweet personalities. I´d simply call them "happy music for happy people".
NAIO SSAIO (Indoor)
I had never heard of this band before, and their music was extremely difficult to classify; a mixture of metal/rock with folk influences would be best, with a fantastic and lively violinist who danced around onstage with fiery passion. On the other hand, the frontwoman was less than convincing with her thin and emotionless singing falling flat next to the musicians. However they had potential, and as the saying goes, what is not currently may well work out in the future.
MOB RULES (Open air)
From the heights of northern Germany the seasoned melodic metallers arrived, and their catchy songs won over ever more fans. Although the vocals weren´t too great, we can forgive him for it just being an off day. And with songs like "Black Rain" and "Rain Song" they had the weather gods on their side for once. And we can be thankful that the vocalist decided to avoid the super-tight silver trousers this time!
The four guys from Bremen, whom many had thought were long gone, graced the Z7 with their power metal force. The sound was united with first-class riffs and a punchy vocal performance, and they hit the ground running. The entire hall rocked to songs like "Never Surrender", and left me thinking "that was spectacular!". The veteran musicians showed the youngsters who´s boss and let everybody know they are still fighting fit and top-notch musicians.
DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER (Open air)
The multifaceted musical stylings of the Thuringian band is nigh on impossible to pigeonhole, they literally jump from pop rock to extreme metal. Definitely a band to have a party to, the audience were unstoppable when singing and growling along to "Friede Sei Mit Dir" or "Riders In The Storm".
LAKE OF TEARS (Indoor)
Despite the Swedish quartet having an optically pleasing stage show with lots of fog and lights displays, their keyboard drenched metal sound was unconvincing. Time to see what was going on outside.
SHAKRA (Open air)
A gourmet dish of hard rock, with songs that wouldn´t leave your ears and demanded that you sing along, with case in point being "Chains Of Temptation" or "She´s My Ecstacy". The band were in top form, with the exception of singer Mark Fox; whether it was due to the number of fawning girls in front of the stage, or he was just having issues singing, his voice was lacking power. Despite his brain lapsing and forgetting lyrics, they still did well with their set, empowering the crowd to sing along and giving them the energy needed for the rest of the evening.
Closing up the indoor stage, the lads in Nevermore delivered a brutal and glorious set involving great numbers such as "I, Voyager", "Born" and "Engines Of Hate". Although it unfortunately wasn´t the best performance of their career due to poor vocal mixing, singer Warrel Dane was still able to bring everyone into the "Nevermore trance" without the use of alcohol (due to his current abstinence). I highly recommend catching these guys live.
IN EXTREMO (Open air)
An extremely versatile band who would have astounded me with their live show, had I been able to see it. Unfortunately I had to head on my way due to waking up early for work, so I had to rely on the opinions of others, which ranged from "superb!" to "not for me". My own opinion is that In Extremo are an extremely interesting band who think outside the box, and that alone makes seeing a show of theirs worth it.
In summary: three wonderful days with many lovely people, good catering, good organization and a host of great music. However, I must give it 6 stars due to terrible sound quality for some of the bands, and a lack of death metal in the lineup. It was a great festival nevertheless, and my recommendation is not to sit on your hands waiting for MetalDayz next year, but head on down to End of 2006 Dayz in the Z7, where bands like Sodom and Finntroll have already been confirmed. More info can be found at www.z-7.ch.