Review – Stonehenge Festival, Steenwijk – 28.7.18

They say all good things must come to an end and indeed they do as we start our trek back over to the UK. Actually we’ve already stared and I’m somewhere over the eastern part of the country. Above the clouds and not subjected to the rain that I believe has deluged the island since we’ve been gone (a whole 29 hours!)

What a long day yesterday turned out to be. Everything in the our carefully planned schedule was running smoothly and we were on track to get to the festival easily by 2pm for Skinned. That was until we had a three hour wait to get into our hotel in Zwolle. As nice as the room turned out to be it was more a four roomed guest house! We couldn’t get in until 3pm and ended up arriving on site at 4:30 – still a possible 11 bands to soak up though.

The weather had been really nice right up until the minute we left the hotel to get the train. The heavens opened and the rain fell in biblical proportions. As we took refuge from the downpour we missed yet another train and I ended up missing Skeletonwitch again.

After the hunt for the merchandise had finished with disappointing results it was time to watch some bands.

First up was LG Petrov, who will always be associated with Entombed, with his latest band Firespawn. He’s one of those guys that you know exactly what you’re going to get and it wasn’t any kind of deviation from his Entombed infamy. Spanish death metal band Avulsed followed straight away on the other stage. I was disappointed with this lot, too much piggy squeal vocals. Coincidentally we saw one of their guitarists looking rather lost at Schiphol airport earlier in the day.

Underrated Dutch band Thanatos were as solid as every other time I’ve seen them and they dragged Martin from Asphyx on stage to do what I’m assuming was a Hail of Bullets cover, not really a cover when most of that band are actually up on the stage.

Gruesome were hot on their heels and pummelled Steenwijk with their tribute to Death. Vocalist Matt Harvey from afar looks a lot like Chuck. Even though they play their own songs their sound owes heavily to the distinctive Floridian death metal pioneers and they finish the set with the stunning Pull the Plug.

As quickly as that finished Violent Pacification was straining from the PA on the other stage. The scheduling is relentless. The “arena” (a fenced off car park. See the photo below borrowed from the festival’s Facebook page of the cleared site) is tiny and the stages can be seen from most parts of the area. As soon as one band finishes another starts. A complete nightmare for bootleggers and those who feel the need to be at the barrier for every band. It’s not so great for those people who like most if the bands playing either. DRI were the dark horse on a predominantly death and black metal line up, but they had a healthy crowd and were a highlight of the day for me.

Swedish death metal veterans Grave were as reliable as I’d expect and they seemed much more into compared to the last time I saw them playing to a sparse crowd in Leeds. A quick 45° turn to my left and Martin van Drunen was back on stage with his day job Asphyx. Yesterday was the fourth time I’ve seen them and apart from London in 2015. It’s not as if they were bad in The Dome when I saw them, they were suffering from an appalling sound. Yesterday they were superb and yet again they levelled the place.

The last Dutch band of the day, Pestilence, seemed pretty lacklustre after what I’d just spent 50 minutes watching. I finally got into the groove with them and they became enjoyable with their thrash tinged death metal. Vocalist Patrick Mameli didn’t seem too happy, not sure if that’s his personality or just all the MetalS*cks shenanigans that has been going on lately that has had their American tour cancelled in the last few days? It was good to finally get to see Pestilence live and Out of the Body was a fine tune to effectively end our festival with.

The crowd had notably thinned after Asphyx and to me seemed even smaller by the time Carnifex took to the stage. They’re a band I’ve never taken the time to listen to. Seconds in and nothing persuaded me change my mind. I’m really not into the metalcore thing in recent times with the dual vocal delivery. We gave them the benefit of the doubt for a few songs, but it wasn’t improving for our aged heads and as much as we wanted to see Suffocation a late night Friday coupled with an early start Saturday and an extra three hours of drinking with the festivals barbaric schedule had taken its toll and it was back to Zwolle an hour or so earlier than expected. A shame really as on the previous times I’ve seen them they have never disappointed me.

Next year the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary. It’s evaded me for 23 years, mainly because I drifted away from death metal and didn’t give it enough attention. But I’m sure I’ll be back in Steenwijk much quicker. Is there any other reason to visit Steenwijk?


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