Rock Am Ring 2008

author PP date 18/06/08

Whichever way you choose for making your way to check out Rock Am Ring in 2009, make sure you don't do it by leaving from Denmark at something past midnight in the night between Thursday and Friday, drive + ferry for about 11 hours, and arrive with just enough time to set up your tent, change some clothes and walk to the festival to watch the first band play. It just doesn't equate into having great fun in the evening, as you become more and more tired and sleepy for not having slept in 48 hours or so. Nevertheless, that's exactly what myself and TL did because we didn't think things through as well as we should've really. Anyway, driving through the empty German Autobahn in the middle of the night is an experience in itself, considering there are no speed limits and next to no other cars on the road...

However, that didn't stop us from catching the wrong route around 30km before the festival from a choice of two, which on the map looked like they were exactly the same in length from our current position to the festival. Long story short, the road was blocked for some reason, forcing us to go up a freaking mountain on a serpentine road that could barely even fit one car, let alone another in the opposite direction, and coming down again on the other side. Well the bonus side is that we got some sight seeing, and I got to laugh a bit over TL's fear of heights, especially during moments where the tiny road had no fencing between the cliff and the road. But anyway, lets get to the point, shall we, and introduce how Rock Am Ring looks like to someone who regularly attends festivals like Roskilde Festival, Give It A Name and Malmö Festival. If you wanna skip the part where I'll just blabber on about how the festival looks and feels like, you can scroll straight down to the reviews further down this page.

First Impressions

The first thing you'll notice on arrival is how parking is pretty much non existent at the festival, aside from the VIP and Press Parking for those with the right papers (). Cars were left just on the sides of roads for several kilometers leading up to the festival, parked at the weirdest angles in the gutter and on the small grass bits to the side of the road. As you're getting closer to the festival, you'll notice the humongous stands in every direction, normally used during the racing season for the famous Formula 1 competition. A bit of a history lesson here: Rock Am Ring was first held in 1985 to celebrate the inauguration of the new version of the Nürburgring race track, but it turned out to be such a commercial success that the organizers decided to start holding it annually, bar the two year pause in 1989 and 1990. Since about 1994, the festival has year after year assembled a lineup that has easily been the best in Europe, and in the years that it hasn't, it has been at least in the top3 of all European Festivals, except if you're a metal maniac and a true Wacken warrior, of course.

The camping is also pretty interesting. Instead of endlessly flat grass fields laid out in an organized fashion, the campsites are spread out in every direction from the festival. Considering the location is enclosing the alps on every step you take southwards from it, this means most of the camping is located on a hilly terrain. Some tents were even set up on so steep slopes that the occupiers must have been slowly sliding downward in their sleep. Although myself and TL didn't have time, energy or access to the public campsites, it seemed like the facilities weren't much to write home for, further fortifying the image that Rock Am Ring isn't about spending the sunny afternoons in your camp drinking with your friends more than it is about watching an incredible line up of artists taking apart three different stages.

The Festival Area

For those of you who've always imagined what it feels like to stand on the starting lane of a famous Formula 1 circuit, where legends like Schumacher and Alonso have started and raced before, I can tell you that it really isn't that special. Although most of the starting lane was closed to others than the press, people coming in from one of the main entrances to the festival were able to walk as far as up to the first curve of the racetrack. You know where the pit stop lanes you see in TV are? The festival is pretty much located on the asphalt paradise right behind the large pit stop building. While this is a cool feat and removes the dust/mud problem completely, the downside of it is that your legs get easily tired, especially if you're like us and want to see pretty much every band playing on the festival. Unfortunately this means you're standing close to 12 hours straight on hard asphalt instead of grass or gravel.

One of the main reasons Rock Am Ring is able to pull such an amazing lineup year after year is because it is a purely corporate event designed to make money. It isn't non-profit like Roskilde Festival or organized by the city/state like Malmö Festival, which unfortunately means corporate logos everywhere. The center of the festival area was reserved for a massive Suzuki promotion, where you could either check out their new 4x4 car's breaking/accelerating capabilities together with an instructor, or ride some quad bikes on a mini track. The good side was that you could try them out for free, and the bad side was that you (obviously) couldn't ride them after having a few beers. That's only a good thing, however, because the beer was the most terrible piece of shit beer I've ever thrown down my throat (Brock from 36 Crazyfists agreed with us!). Which is kind of surprising considering Germany is one of the best beer countries in the world. What happened to brans like Becks or Warsteiner, who surely would've got incredible promotion from sponsoring the festival? Instead, Bitburger was the chosen beer supplier, and although it was relatively cheap, it tasted horrible. Nonetheless, I have to give credit for the recycling system that the festival had in place for beer mugs. You paid an extra 1 Euro in deposit for each beer mug, and as long as you returned the beer mug back to the stalls each time you wanted a new beer, you could get the beer cheaper than if you had thrown your mug away. This helped keep the festival area much cleaner, although the fact that they were made out of hard plastic instead of soft plastic was pretty annoying.

The food stalls mostly consisted of four or five standardized 'brands', that were repeated all around the festival area. Pizza Mario would get you some pretty tasty pizza slices, and there were numerous other sandwich, burger, kebab, etc stalls handy around the festival. But like the beer, most of the food was pretty cheap and equally bad quality, with far too much onion and far too little salads and other green stuff you'd like to eat in order to at least pretend like you're trying to eat healthy.

Rock Am Ring has three different stages, each located in opposite angles of the triangularly shaped festival area. You have the Coca Cola Soundwave tent, which has a massively wide stage divided into two separate stages, so that while one band is playing, the next one is setting up so that they can cram as many up and coming bands into the tent as possible over the weekend. Fitted with bars in every side of the tent, it's shaped more like a massive club than anything else, meaning that the acoustics aren't great inside. Any intricate sounds are hopelessly lost into the echoes of the tent (especially if it isn't full). In the next corner, you have the Suzuki Alternastage, a large arena-sized outdoor stage that can probably fit closer to 30,000 people, which has only one front pit accessible from both left and right sides. Whereas the Coca Cola Soundwave seemed to focus on up and coming names, the Suzuki Alternastage was a nice mixture of both new and old talent, of huge bands and small bands, all sharing the same stage to varying degrees of audience. Last but not least, the Centerstage houses all the massive headliners (as well as some medium size names), and can easily fit the entire festival attendance on it because of its long shape and five different TV screens helping those in the back to see something. Hanging around this stage meant that you'd be watching one huge band after another with no end in sight. The two front pits acted as valves to ease the immense pressure of so many people, but for some weird reason they weren't emptied out after each show. This meant that if you wanted to see Rage Against The Machine in the front pits, you probably had to arrive around five or six hours before and spend your entire day in the pit, missing many other potentially great shows on the other stages of the festival. That is, unless you had press privileges or had one of the special red wristbands that I saw some people wearing.

Luckily, Rock Am Ring has much more sense in scheduling bands than Roskilde does, so even though there were about three handfuls of incredible bands on the bill, you barely had to miss any of them because of the logical way that the band's started and finished their set. For example, if you wanted to follow the soul/hip-hop/indie names on Friday, you could hop from Gavin Rossdale to Tokyo Police Club to The Streets to Saul Williams with ease. At the same time, you could follow the (better) route and watch Silverstein, Opeth, Bad Religion in a row without having to miss anything important in between (although, it can be argued that Serj Tankian is important). But now for the reviews.

Reviews

So as myself and TL arrived to the festival late, we had just barely enough time to set up our tent and register for press passes before we already had to be running to catch the last moments of the From First To Last set. As tired as we were from driving through the night, the prospect of getting to see From First To Last, Silverstein, Opeth, Bad Religion, Coheed & Cambria, Incubus, and of course Rage Against The Machine in a row was freaking exciting. Without further ado, I'll give you a review of Friday's performances.

Friday 6.6

From First To Last @ 14:30 on Suzuka Alternastage

After being lost in the mountains cost us at least an hour of extra driving time, our plan to make it to the festival in time to see From First To Last open the main stage is more or less shot to shit. We make it there just before they close their set with "Deliverance" and "Ride The Wings Of Pestilence". From what I can see, the band isn't phased about being on the ridiculously large stage but neither are they really filling it out. From what little I can gather from the performance of the two songs I saw, the show was alright without being anything overly special. [7] TL

Silverstein @ 16:50 on Suzuka Alternastage

As I'm on my way to see Silverstein on the Alternastage, I can't help but to think that the size of it is going to kill them. Boy, am I wrong. Not only does it seem like of the stage has proportionally amplified the sound of the band, but the crowd seems to be loving the show, participating at a level that would otherwise hint at a later hour of the day. Okay so Shane Told does have a tendency of taking the mic a bit too far from his mouth, cutting the end of his extended high notes short, but it matters little, because him and his band are playing their asses off, owning up to the size of the venue while sounding heavier and meaner than ever. It suits them well. [8] TL

Opeth @ 17:45 on Suzuka Alternastage

After Silverstein's surprisingly good performance, we had just about enough time to turn around at the food stalls, and watch some pretty bad Rock Band singers try their luck at winning the main prize in that competition, before it was time for Opeth to dominate the Alternastage with their trademark epic progressive metal. I've had the chance of seeing Opeth live twice before today's performance, both at a festival and in a club venue (a massive one, I might add, however), and I must admit that Opeth are definitely not a festival band simply because they barely have time to play three or four songs before they have to depart from the stage again. That's the problem with 10 minute mammoths like "The Baying Of The Hounds", which in a club atmosphere can awake a passionate response from the crowd, whilst today, the only thing it managed was to put people asleep. Progressive metal just doesn't resonate very well at massive outdoor venues, and even Åkerfeldt's always elegant appearance at the stage couldn't persuade people to stay at the arena. Half way through their set, most people had wondered off or were simply lying down on the racetrack. Shame, cause Opeth is a fantastic band - just not suitable for festivals. [5] PP

Bad Religion @ 18:50 on Suzuka Alternastage

Even before Bad Religion begun playing, people were approaching the stage from every direction imaginable. Those who argue that the living punk rock legends are way past their bedtime should've been there to see the vast amounts of people, amounting into the largest crowd any band had on this stage throughout the whole weekend. The next question begging to be answered was whether the band could still play live and get people engaged in the show. The answer? Still as good as I imagine they were in the 80s and 90s, with lots of movement on stage, and of course, great selection of songs. "Sorrow"'s massive singalong represented one of the brilliant moments from the band's outputs this decade, while "Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell", all the way from their 1982 debut, still sounded fresh tonight. With only a 50 minute timeslot, timeless classics like "Anesthesia", "Flat Earth Society" or "(You Are) The Government" had to be omitted in favour of some newer songs ("New Dark Ages" etc), but the festival version of "Generator" made a welcome appearance. With the big singalongs and active stageshow, their show made me crave for much more as their set finished all too soon.. [8] PP

Coheed & Cambria @ 20:00 on Suzuki Alternastage

Choosing between seeing Coheed & Cambria for the third time instead of checking out Incubus for the first time was a hard decision to me, and in the end I guess I succumbed to the nostalgia Coheed's songs conjure up in me. In the merciless light of hindsight, I probably should have gone for Incubus, because while Claudio and Travis still rips like true guitar heroes of old, Claudio's vocals seem to be carried elsewhere by the wind, and the lyrics only carry over clearly when sung by the two (goddamn annoying) choir-girls the band has enlisted for their liveshows. For Coheed to step into the absolute major league of bands, I still maintain that Claudio has to ditch the females and step into his own as a live vocalist as well as a guitarist. Here he's actually stepping away from the microphone for some of his own parts, and it just doesn't do it when all his fans know the captivating power of his voice from the band's records. [6] TL

Incubus @ 20:05 on Centerstage

Having grown slightly tired of Coheed & Cambria's progressive wankery and bad sound, I decided to leave TL to take care of that show and briefly check out Incubus who were still on as I made my way towards the other end of the festival. I was massively late, though, and only managed to catch the last four songs: "Are You In" (which saw Brandon deliver some of his most passionate singing I've heard from him to date), the always great "Pistola" that showcased what good a little desperation can do in your liveshow, the "Make Yourself" classic "Stellar", and the set closer "A Crow Left To The Murder", which got the crowd jumping big time. From what I managed to see, Incubus were at their very best tonight (and the sound was perfect!), which kind of pissed me off since I missed the first 8 songs including "Circles" (my favorite) because of Coheed, who weren't even that good. Without officially rating something I only saw a third of or so, I'll hint towards the eight-grade or higher for their show. Just look at the crazy amounts of people. PP

Rage Against The Machine @ 22:00 on Centerstage

uuuuuueeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh... uuuueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. No introduction was necessary for Rage Against The Machine other than the incredibly loud air raid warning sirens that lasted for almost three whole minutes, a time which seemed like an eternity as the crowd was becoming more and more ecstatic by the second. You have to remember that this band has blown up exponentially since they broke up eight years ago. You have to remember that they have entered a megastar status during this time, simply because a) they write amazing music and b) no other band exists even remotely similar to Rage. But nonetheless, the spotlight was thrown onto Zach De La Rocha as he walked on stage and screamed to the mic "WE ARE RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FROM LOS ANGELES" before launching into "Testify" and 10 other songs in a row without holding a single break to speak to the audience. The mystery effect of the reunited band was only amplified - I don't think I've ever been to a show where people have gone more mental than at this one. "Bulls On Parade" and "People Of The Sun" had people jumping up and down from front to back.. I'm sure you can imagine the effect of 70,000 people jumping and screaming simultaneously. Tom Morello was storming back and forth the stage, making one-legged hops backwards on stage while riffing away, emitting a very vivid vibe that he's fucking loving what he's doing right now. Zach's vocals were spot on, as aggressive and in your face as ever, he even managed to magically stay on top of the 70,000 strong crowd who were drowning every one of his words underneath a monstrous roar.

Speaking of the crowd, describing everything as a "show" or a "concert" is completely misleading of what was actually going on. None of this was commercial cash-in bullcrap that big name reunion concerts almost always are. Freaking far from it. You guys seen the protest videos from Tibet on YouTube? No? What about the fights at seminal Champions League matches? That's right, the "Rage experience" was more like being a witness to an uncontrollable riot. Those red torches/flares that you usually see in football matches? I counted at least four separate instances where a crowd member lit one and was dancing around in a frenzy for minutes before the security tackled him. Mosh pits? Oh man, don't even get me started on what happened during "Know Your Enemy" - the meaning of a circle pit was re-defined during the evening. Not a soul was standing still - except when the band broke their silence in the middle of "Wake Up". I was wondering if they still aligned themselves to the guerrilla politics they were known for in the past, and although Zach sounded kind of phoney in the start talking about the Bush administration (come on, all bands do that), a minute into his rant we were given a new angle: "we don't just need to change the president or the administration... no... WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WHOLE FUCKING SYSTEM!!". Basically an allusion to voting in a radically different government who wants to change the way the country works. Zach didn't even have to request people to do it, almost the entirety of the front pit sat down during the long instrumental break in "Wake Up", before the crowd absolutely exploded when the "WAKE UP!!!" screams arrived. I'm still getting cold chills on my back today as I'm retrospectively thinking about how well executed the whole thing was. Just like the 70k strong "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" screams in "Killing In The Name Of". And all too soon, 14 songs in the one and a half hour stretch was over, and I didn't see anything else than smiles all around. I think RATM could've played every song they've ever written and the crowd would still have been craving for more. The whole band looked tighter than ever on stage, and when they can put on a live show as bombastic as this one, there's no way in hell they won't record a new album in the near future. Nothing short of perfect - and this without the help of a single prop, video, or pyro effect. [10] PP

So, a combined effect of a devastating Rage Against The Machine front pit and the lack of sleep for almost 48 hours, caused our bodies to collapse in extreme exhaustion and even the thought of spending two more hours in the company of Motörhead and The Prodigy seemed like an impossible obstacle. On retrospect missing both bands kind of ticked me off since the former is known to put a great rock n roll show on every time, and The Prodigy is just an act from the past I've always wanted to check out... but I guess my body thanked me the next day for the lovely 14 hours of sleep we caught in the tents. Around 14:00 the next day, we got up all fresh and ready to rock and roll yet another day at the ring.

Saturday 7.6

They tell you the best experiences are those that first start settling in the day after, or so. True that, because as we were still talking about the amazing little details of the RATM show in between bands and while grabbing some of the terrible food on Saturday (we were determined to try all kinds of stalls to find at least something decent other than the pizzas!), we slowly but surely started figuring out just how incredible that riotous show had been the night before. Quite something for today's bands to match, but Alter Bridge started our really well.

Alter Bridge @ 15:20 on Centerstage

Before the festival, Alter Bridge was one of the bands I was least looking forward to. Why? First of all, have you seen the lineup yet? And second of all, I've never really become great friends with their alternative/hard rock sound that borrows equally much from Creed as it does from Pearl Jam. I did review their record and found it enjoyable, but it just isn't something I would put on voluntarily... until now, after their Rock Am Ring performance. The band blew me off completely on stage with songs like "Ties That Bind" and "Rise Today". I finally understood why they've written songs as "big" sounding as these - they sound frigging massive at stadium-sized venues like this. Combine that with perfect sound and a frontman who knows how to deal with massive crowds and get them excited, and you've got one of the better shows at Rock Am Ring this year. There was no poser rockstar bullshit, just quality rock songs delivered with a rock star attitude and the execution of a band who has been doing this for 10 years or more. Myles Kennedy's voice was incredible tonight, he was hitting even higher notes than on record and attaching natural vibrato to his voice, too! Even the "get your hands up Rock Am Ring!" (etc) shouts were done in such a down-to-earth, genuine manner that there's no way you could accuse this band of corporate bullshit. Now I'm excited for their fall European tour! [8] PP

Disturbed @ 16:20 on Centerstage

Okay, so there's a massive scary banner with artwork from Disturbed's latest album in the back and David Draiman is wheeled on stage in a straitjacket, wearing a mask you'd otherwise see on Hannibal Lecter - I'm expecting him to break free and start the show by going crazy in a truly theatrical manner. What happens instead is that some guy in a doctor's outfit cut him lose and then he's just there, himself in his plain black outfit. Verdict: Tilting between lame, pointless and just poorly executed. In any case, the show starts, and Disturbed treats the main stage audience to almost all their hit songs as well as a bunch from the new album. The mainstream appeal of the band isn't lost it seems, because the response from the crowd is absolutely fuckin' massive. From where I'm standing, there isn't that much to be excited over. Sure they play well and the sound's fine but Draiman's choreographed moves (the same arm gesture for all three chorus seems a bit planned out) and comment's like "I knew you'd come over to the dark side" are triggering my bullshit alarm. In my opinion, Disturbed should try to listen to some bands that are really heavy before they go on out and act like tough ass motherfuckers. I know I'll get bashed by the masses for this but then, if it ever came to a scrap between Disturbed and The Dillinger Escape Plan, I'd stand with Dillinger any day of the week. Mainstream mediocrity [6½] TL

In Flames @ 17:30 on Centerstage

As soon as In Flames come on stage you notice that the artistic quality is just raised by several bars. The majority ignores this and goes away to chill after seeing Disturbed, and while I wish I could say they missed out, I have to admit that it would be only half the truth. You see, while In Flames still have instrumental work that runs over Disturbed's, backs up, runs them over again, backs up and repeats, Anders Friden's trademark screams seem to have gone down the same black hole as Claudio Sanchez's voice during Coheed & Cambria's set. Despite frantic gesturing and communicating with people back stage and a change of mic, his vocals are still buried beneath the guitars. This does severely weaken the strength of "The Mirrors Truth" and "Only For The Weak" but even so, just listening to the arrangements and the flow of the music feels like an epiphany after Disturbed. [7] TL

Nightwish @ 18:50 on Centerstage

Starting off with one of your worst songs is never a good idea, if you ask me, but that wasn't the least of Nightwish's problems during their set tonight. "Bye Bye Beautiful" just doesn't bring forth new singer Anette's skills nor the band's capability as a symphonic metal band too well. "The Poet And The Pendulum" would've more than made up for the inclusion of the song, but unfortunately only four minutes into the 13 minute mammoth, the band was hit with a power failure and the symphonic keyboards stopped working. While we were waiting for the technical team to fix the problem, Marco kept the crowd going like the professional he is by saying "this really sucks, I guess I'll have to meet with my friend to make it better", showing off a bottle of Absolut Vodka and downing more sips than I'll ever be able to do in one go. Soon the problem was fixed, though only temporarily, and it returned right in the middle of their hit single "Amaranth", prompting new singer Anette to release an outburst of anger at the microphone: "laaalaaaaahh... what the HELL is going on?" before disappearing off stage. For almost five minutes, the crowd was kept waiting for something to happen, until eventually Marco came back on stage alone with his friend Absolut and said "I guess I'll have to do some more sucking!", proceeding to down some more vodka in a traditionally Finnish fashion. Anyway, what started off as an awesome set kinda mellowed down, especially with the ballads towards the end. The various pyro effects were great, especially the spiraling ones that seemed pretty close to lighting Anette's hair on fire, but you could tell that both the band and the audience were feeling let down by technology big time. Without the outages Nightwish could've been pretty close to a 9 in my mind, especially because they mostly played songs from their masterpiece new album "Dark Passion Play", but with all things considered, a 7 is being a little bit generous. Anette was awesome though, glad that she's in the band instead of Tarja. [7] PP

The Offspring @ 20:20 on Centerstage

For many (like me), The Offspring were the gateway to punk rock. Considering how they haven't really toured properly or released anything even remotely interesting ever since "Americana" in 1998, they had a lot to prove tonight. I guess the pressure was too much, because other than the amazing setlist consisting of (almost) ONLY material from "Americana" and before (with the exception of "Hammerhead" and another new song from their upcoming album), you couldn't have guessed that you were watching a band who has influenced millions upon millions of lives of youth around the world. "Bad Habit" opened the set with its characteristic, mood-setting bass opener and Dexter's slow croons "Hey many you know I'm really OKAAAAAAAY", and had pretty much everyone singing along, though most people were still standing mostly still. But as soon as the slow intro was finished, the three chord punk outburst made the crowd explode even as far back from the stage as we were standing, with the nearest 20-30 meters turning into a sprinting mosh pit all around. "All I Want" took credit for the third loudest singalong all festival (after every Rage song and "Self Esteem"), but already at this point people were getting confused on what the hell was going on. Firstly, the band was standing dead still on stage, showing absolutely no sign of acknowledging they are playing in front of 70,000 or so people, who are all singing their songs back at them at full volume. Secondly, Dexter's vocal delivery was appalling at best, you could barely hear him behind the instruments. "Come Out And Play", "Have You Ever", "Staring At The Sun", "Gotta Get Away", "Want You Bad", "Pretty Fly", "The Kids Aren't Alright"... I don't think anyone could complain about the band's setlist except the old school purists who want to hear stuff from "Ignition" and before. But when you see Dexter on the screens bolted to the ground, not changing his expression for the entire duration of the show, you start wondering if you're dancing and singing along like crazy to the wrong band. I get it, they think they're playing in front of a hostile crowd after "Splinter" and "Conspiracy Of One", but this is supposed to be their redeeming tour, redeeming album... if that's the case, at least show some emotion live. Score is this high only because of crowd participation. [6] PP

Metallica @ 22:00 on Centerstage

All throughout The Offspring, I was wondering what that massive structure behind the band was that they weren't using at all. I figured that it must have been some kind of Metallica stage prop, and thus I was pretty excited to see what it would be used for. As the lights dimmed and Metallica creeped on stage to play Creeping Death (heh!), I still wasn't sure what it was used for, but as soon as the first riff in the song blasted from the speakers, it sent shockwaves throughout the entire audience. That bloody thing covering the entire stage was an incredibly large screen. Apparently Metallica weren't happy with the way Rock Am Ring guys were filming the performances to the side screens and the ones further down the arena, because they had brought their own filming crew as well, who placed themselves on and around the huge structure where Hetfield would eventually climb to rock out in front of the 70,000 strong crowd. Remember those pyro effects that I described from the Nightwish set earlier on in the article? Yeah, those seemed like absolute toys as soon as Metallica's flame throwers went on. They were far too large to be positioned on the stage, so instead they were all the way on the left and right sides, blowing out a flame at least as large as the stage itself. When they first went on, you could hear the entire crowd sigh "wow", as even 100 meters away where I and TL were standing, you could feel the heat burning. The people at the front must've been absolutely roasted from the two fires.

You could also tell that Metallica were having a hell of a time playing together, promising that their upcoming album "Magnetic Death" could be their best in over a decade. No new songs were played tonight, though, but you could tell from the way Lars was standing up while pounding on his cymbals, or the numerous facial expressions on Hetfield's face that the band were excited. But then again, who wouldn't be with a million dollar stage show like the one they put on. For instance, during the intro of "One", where on record you hear a combat situation with bombs and machine guns going off, the stage went entirely dark, and real pyro explosions replaced the fake ones on record. Having a machine-gun sound blast off the speakers and a blindingly flashing light run across the entire stage made you wanna duck for cover, and as if that wasn't enough, the band even had fireworks to represent artillery fire.

With a setlist comprising of the band's timeless classics (kind of like The Offspring did earlier), I don't think anyone was disappointed at the band's show tonight. "Harvester Of Sorrow", "...And Justice For All", "Fade To Black", "Master Of Puppets", "Nothing Else Matters", "Enter Sandman", "Sad But True", "Seek & Destroy" among others had people singing along, though still not nearly as loudly as during the RATM show the night before. Helped with perfect sound, however, the riffs slayed their way through the whole audience, making this a highly rated show anyway. Just the fact that James and Kirk both spent time far out on each side of the stage outside the lighting added to the feeling that the band knew exactly what they were doing tonight for the entirety of the two hour set, and were having a hell of a good time. [9] PP

Against Me @ 00:05 on Coca Cola Soundwave

As tired as I am after six bands, one of which was Metallica, I'm still instantly invigorated when I step into the Soundwave tent and see Against Me. It is just a rush to see that a band can rock a crowd just as hard with nothing but a good attitude, as well as another can with big screens, fireworks and flamethrowers. Like Silverstein, Against Me seems like a band with something to prove here, and as always their set is so tight it's scary. They waste next to no time between songs, and they're not relaxing for a second during them. After I was damn near bored to death by the stationary jukebox-set of The Offspring, Against Me's show is a lesson to all other bands in how good a performance you can give to your fans if you can be bothered to put the work into it. I would go see this band any time and so should you. [9] TL

As Saturday was drawing to close, the only thing tired tonight were our legs from having stood for the better part of 10 hours on the asphalt. But after having seen so many tremendously good bands in a row tonight, I don't think we could complain the little details. After all, looking at the above reviews still gives me cold chills - this is surely the only time you'll get to stand for the second day in a row and say "wow, the band list is just amazing".

Sunday 8.6

Sunday opened with great weather, sunshine and warmth everywhere. Perfect festival weather sure to lift everyone's moods high, which Kill Hannah and especially Lostprophets took great advantage of. Today's choice of food was just pizza all over again (other than some spaghetti in the evening), because our experimentation the day before hadn't lead us anywhere else than into further cursing the low quality food at the stalls. I guess that's why most people were cooking back at the campsite, but on the other hand, as long as it's as cheap as it is, we can't really complain.

Kill Hannah @ 13:40 on Suzuka Alternastage

We all know that Kill Hannah is a band we should be embarrassed to like. Their overload of eyeliner and cheesy vocals and synths have given them a close connection to the emo-scene, however, seeing them makes you realise that they're much rather trying to bring back glam. Their songs aren't exactly interesting pieces of composition, but they play them well enough, and while Mat Devine prances around the stage in a manner that makes me question his sexuality, he's not above cracking jokes like "Hello Rock Am Ring, we are Metallica" - imagine that in the voice that sings "Lips Like Morphine" and the fun of it should dawn upon you. In any case, Kill Hannah put on a decent show for the few people who are up at this early hour, and their efforts earn them a solid [7] TL

Rival Schools @ 14:00 on Centerstage

Reunited post-hardcore act Rival Schools had the task of opening the Center Stage on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. Not many peeps had made their way from the camping areas to the festival area yet, giving plenty of space for sunbathers to just sit down and enjoy the surprisingly warm weather (considering the chilly afternoon the day before). Not that there wasn't anything to see really, as Rival Schools slowly went through their one album's worth of songs. On record, most of the songs are decent and one song, "Used For Glue" is amazing, but today the band seemed all too relaxed and comfortable on stage. With minimal movement and even less passion or devotion, it quickly became clear that Rival Schools aren't that interested in playing their songs, just like the crowd wasn't that interested in hearing them. The band had to specifically ask the crowd to "get up and jump around" for their aforementioned megahit, and when a band has to do that, you can tell that much isn't going on for them. [5] PP

Lostprophets @ 14:50 on Centerstage

When Lostprophets take over the main stage on sunday, people are sitting down lazily everywhere, including the front pits. Before their show is over, both pits are dominated by either bouncing or circular movements, and raised hands of appreciation are seen far in the back. If that doesn't cure you of any preconceptions about the band, I don't know what will, but as Ian Watkins says "Lets all have a good time! It doesn't matter if you like us.. Who cares? I don't! .. Nahh nahh nahh, I'm just kidding!". The lead singer has a stage presence Gerard Way would envy and a tattooed torso that will keep the female fans awake at night, and from the first note of "We Still Kill The Old Way", it's obvious that Lostprophets - "as it says five times in the back" - mean business. The oldie "Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja" opens lethal moshpits while the smash hit "Last Train Home" makes the pits resemble a giant choir, making waves as it bounces up and down. I know have to see this band with a headlining set some time [9] TL

Thanks to our press passes, we're quickly able to bypass the increasing crowds of people by using the areas on the other side of the pit lane, which meant we saved almost fifteen minutes and managed to catch at least half of Turisas' set at the Soundwave tent located on the opposite end of the festival.

Turisas @ 15:35 on Coca Cola Soundwave

When we get to the Soundwave Tent, Turisas seem to be halfway through their set, and fans throughout the tent are raising horns in approval. We move in closer to get in on the debauchery, only to realise that there's disappointingly little of it going on. While Turisas are the same as last time I saw them, except with a slightly worse sound (as everyone in the Soundwave tent), people don't seem to get it as much as they did in Denmark. Maybe the viking inheritance is missing down here? Still there's enough attitude and showmanship in Warlord Matthias and his warriors to keep anyone entertained, and I don't think it will ever be fair to grade Turisas below [7½] TL

The Fall Of Troy @ 16:15 on Coca Cola Soundwave

There were exactly two things The Fall Of Troy could do today inside the much smaller indoor stage: either destroy every bit of the stage with their frantic stage show and get the whole tent moving in their crazy rhythms, or alternatively, fail to do either and resort to similar technical wankery as Coheed & Cambria did the day before. Unfortunately for the audience (and the band, I guess?), the opted for the latter, mostly because you simply couldn't hear the guitar OR the vocals of Thomas Erak over the bass and the drums. And when you're music relies so heavily on intriguing vocal structures and impossibly technical guitar lines, more than 70% of The Fall Of Troy experience is missing. You could tell Erak was on the same lines as I, angrily pointing upwards at his guitar at the sound guys in at least three separate occasions, but apparently these guys seemed to either ignore him or be completely deaf. For instance, you couldn't hear anything of "Cut Down All The Trees..." and even "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X" was terribly mixed. The highlight "I Just Got This Symphony Goin'" got people dancing - barely - but you still couldn't really hear the music. What a shame, because Erak and newly added Frank Black's stage show was almost at its beautifully chaotic norms, with Erak's one-handed guitarwork catching a fair bit of shocked stares from the audience. [6½] PP

Fair To Midland @ 16:50 on Suzuki Alternatestage

Like Opeth on Friday, Fair To Midland isn't a band that'll get you all excited in a festival atmosphere because of the progressive nature of their music. Though not spending 10+ minutes on every song, the instrumentals and the build ups were just slightly too long for most people to be interested in, which is a shame, because from what I saw, the band's stage show was among the most active from anyone at the festival. The guys jumped around like crazy, storming back and forth the stage while playing the heavier bits in their songs, and especially their vocalist went mental a couple of times. I remember him crawling like a madman on the photographer's area while screaming nonsensically into the microphone, then rolling a little bit in every direction before finishing the show off with a primal scream and more ridiculous stage stunts. While the music was something you needed to know very well before their show to enjoy, the stage show gives them big plus marks. [6½] PP

Filter @ 17:50 on Suzuki Alternastage

American industrial / alternative rock heroes Filter are a typically 90s rock band, who were massive for a while and then quickly disappeared into the sidelines shortly after the change of millennium. Although they were one of the band's responsible for shaping my music taste into what it is today, I can't say I was particularly stoked about getting to see their songs live, other than maybe "Take My Picture" and "Hey Man Nice Shot", which were my favorites for a long time. But damn, these guys blew just about everyone away by their performance, and the nearly empty Alternastage filled up very fucking quickly during their performance. Partly thanks to their incredibly solid sound and partly thanks to vocalist Richard Patrick's antics, these guys surprised everyone by putting on one hell of a rock show. Richard's weird obsession of walking towards the cameras, staring and making weird faces, or stopping simply to let out massive primal screams was amusing, and more importantly, very different to what most other bands did on stage. He was also the first band of the weekend to not just hop off the stage to the photographer's area, but also all the way down to the front barriers where he spent most of his time singing and screaming together with the fans. He stole the hats and sunglasses from a security guard, gave a female audience member a kiss on the lips, and just generally strolled along in a manner that's usually reserved to the biggest rockstars of the planet. His elegance, his performance, and most importantly, his passionate vocal delivery made a difference today. [8½] PP

Pendulum @ 18:20 on Coca Cola Soundwave

UK based electronica/dance rockers Pendulum were playing more or less at the same time as Filter. Myself and TL had originally planned to leave Filter at the start of the Pendulum set to check them out, but since their performance was so awesome we decided to stay anyway and only catch the last 2 or so songs off Pendulum: "Blood Sugar" and a new track whose name I didn't manage to catch. But I can tell you that the party was ON during their show. People dancing around showing off their glowsticks and trance skills, whilst the band's colourful strobelights took care of the rest. Especially during the former, I was pretty sure that I was witnessing one of the best performances at Rock Am Ring this year, but I don't think it's fair to base anything on just seeing two songs, even though their frontman handled the crowd like a world class DJ at Ministry of Sound or something. PP

Black Tide @ 19:55 on Coca Cola Soundwave

One sentence describes Black Tide, their music, and their performance perfectly: generic as hell. The only reason this band is as hyped up as they are is because they just happen to have a 15 year old vocalist whose roar is at least equivalent to the seasoned metal veterans you might see at a festival like Wacken. However, when you're accompanied by only a couple of interesting hooks and riffs, and next to no movement on stage other than the obligatory head banging, and not more than one or two songs that can actually be considered "good", you're not gonna get me interested. Although the 15 year old shows impressive fretwork and an even more impressive voice for his age, if he wasn't 15, it'd still be considered generic. [5] PP

High On Fire @ 20:50 on Coca Cola Soundwave

In a direct contrast to Black Tide's genericness, High On Fire's progressive sludge metal had much more texture in it. Unfortunately for the band and the audience, they suffered from the exact same problem as The Fall Of Troy earlier, in that the vocals very muddy and the guitar sound even muddier, creating an ugly wall of sound behind the indecipherable roar for their vocalist/guitarist. Those familiar with their excellent new album "Death Is This Communion" will know how important it is to distinguish the chord progressions in a song like "Fury Whip", which they started with, let alone the rest of the album. Although the vocalist was trying his best, sweating like a pig on stage from the shredding and demanding vocal performance, people were only dancing every now and then when they could recognize something from the sludgy mess of a sound that they had on stage. But such is festival life, I guess, some bands just get crucified by the guys behind the mixerdesks. [6] PP

Jimmy Eat World @ 21:30 on Suzuki Alternastage

If I've ever seen a slow start to a show, it's the one I see at Jimmy Eat World's show at the alterna-stage. Not because the band is doing bad but simply because the crowd seem to be stupefied for the first three songs. PP realises this and bails out to see 36 Crazyfists instead, but I stay faithfully and fortunately so, because slowly and steadily, people wake up and start appreciating the band. In the compact set, the ballads have been left out and as Jim Adkins says "It's time to dance!", and with most of the band's up-tempo repertoire on display, including oldies "Your New Aesthetic" and "Blister", that's exactly what we're doing. That and crowdsurfing. To this date I've seen 165 sets, and never have I seen so many crowdsurfers before. For about 8 songs in a row there are more than 10 crowdsurfers during each song, and for the closing "The Middle" they seem to come in layers. All of which is being given smiles and helpful pushes from the audience, effectively creating a great mood for a great show [8] TL

36 Crazyfists @ 21:45 on Coca Cola Soundwave

I knew 36 Crazyfists were popular in Germany, but I didn't realize they were THIS popular. The entirety of the Soundwave tent was packed to its limits, and I had trouble getting in even with my press pass because there were simply so many people inside the tent. Getting anywhere close was impossible as people packed closely together all the way to the back of the tent. "Alright", I thought, "they must be just interested in checking out some screamo, they can't possibly all know the band". Wrong. Songs like "Bloodwork", "I'll Go Until My Heart Stops" or "Slit Wrist Theory" had the entire tent singing along, and even a couple of the newer songs ("The All Night Lights", "We Gave It Hell") got people sprinting around in a massive circle pit. However, I must add here that because of the poor acoustics inside of the tent, the band's otherwise energetic performance was brought down a bit by Brock's vocals. They were loud and aggressive, but they turned out all too monotonous tonight - I'll blame that on the sound guys though. [7] PP

HIM @ 23:00 on Suzuki Alternastage

About His Infernal Majesty, I didn't quite know what to expect. I mean yeah it's cheesy, but there has to be some reason people like it right? Wrong! Despite the fact that Ville Valo has recently (finally) sobered up, it doesn't seem like he could sing to save his life. Take that on top of the fact that him and his band seem like they'd be nervous about playing at the local high school and you have one huge disappointment of a show. While Ville does his notorious chain smoking on stage and mutters jokes no-one can hear into the microphone, tracks even I love, like "Heartache Every Moment" and "Right Here In My Arms" fall flat on the ground. And here I was, expecting a grand show to go with the dark theatricality of the band's music. I don't care who you are or how much you love HIM - If you felt satisfied with this performance, you're selling yourself way too short! [2] TL

Dimmu Borgir @ 00:00 on Coca Cola Soundwave

The festival organizers had placed Dimmu Borgir to perform only half an hour before the QOTSA set, which meant we only had time to see a few beautifully dark symphonic metal songs before leaving. Unfortunately for us, Dimmu Borgir was almost 10 minutes late which cut our viewing time to just 2 and a half songs. Nonetheless, the 2 and a half songs that we saw were a demonstration of exactly why Dimmu Borgir are considered to be the kings of the black metal scene. Everything from the coordinated pyro effects to the satanic swaying on stage suggested that this band puts on a live show near the "great" ratings, and as I predicted in the preview article two weeks ago, their melancholic sadness during the last night surely was an epic finale to many at the festival. Definitely go check them out when they play near you. PP

Queens Of The Stone Age @ 00:30 on Suzuki Alternastage

If you sometimes find yourself having trouble defining to yourself concepts such as "cool" and "rock'n'roll" - go see Queens Of The Stone Age. Mastermind Josh Homme and his band can rock the socks of you, your grandmother and the rest of your family any time of the day, using nothing but their instruments. In their usual arrogant fashion they kick start the show with "Millionaire", "Noone Knows" and "3's and 7's", arguably some of their most appreciated songs, and I have to ask myself what they're going to do to keep following it up. For a while they slow it down with a couple of the more spaced out tracks of "Era Vulgaris" but then it's right back into overdrive with "Burn The Witch", "Do It Again", "Sick, Sick, Sick" and so on. Everybody's dancing maniacally as the music seems to have a hypnotizing grip on each and every crowdmember. Symptomatically for just how cool the Queens are, they stop the closing "Songs For The Dead" dead in its track for a second, while Homme looks around with a smug grin on his face. Then he nods and they kick right back into it without missing a beat. There's no-one quite like the Queens Of The Stone Age [9] TL

Epilogue

So we came to Rock Am Ring for the music and nothing else, and we were given music, and not much else. But having seen around 30 great bands without having to resort into seeing unknown names, I don't think anyone can complain about the Rock Am Ring experience. I mean if you are at a festival and can afford to miss bands like Paramore (who played at the same time as Rage Against The Machine, I wonder how many people went to see them), Serj Tankian, Seether, Danko Jones, Simple Plan, Black Dahlia Murder, and Bullet For My Valentine (and many others), you can be pretty damn certain that the lineup is absolutely ridiculous in terms of how good it must be. Contrary to other festivals (Roskilde!), all headliners performed amazing sets and didn't disappoint the slightest bit. The few extras at the festival, such as The Rock Band competition they had going on were pretty cool, but the game is much harder than it looks like so the vocalist's kept failing the songs even on the easiest level. Just ask TL who miserably failed three times in a row at Fall Out Boy's "Dead On Arrival".

Overall, Rock Am Ring gave the impression that it's a festival any music fan should go to, but if you do decide to go, don't go expecting the "orange feeling" because it simply doesn't exist at the festival. Instead, you're treated to some of the best concert crowds you'll ever see, with a total of zero spotted karate moshers, haters, annoying pricks shouting stuff at the bands, and the like. When a vocalist called for a circle pit, a circle pit happened. A real circle pit, may I add, where people are actually running around in a circle, and not the moshcore bullshit that always happens in Denmark. The best lineup of 2008? You bet. See you next year!

Written by PP & TL

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXIX Rockfreaks.net.