Around one, the rain starts pissing down on this otherwise fine June day. I've parked outside the school I went to when I was between 16 and 19, i.e. the time when I really seriously got hooked on metal. There are many good memories associated with this place - also of the first, big concerts I went to back then; Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, Priest, Annihilator, Pantera, Iron Maiden and the like. Speaking of memories from that time: I'm supposed to pick up an old school friend at the train station, so after having waited almost 40 minutes in the car, I'm finally forced to leave my sanctuary of dryness, armed with an umbrella which I know I'm going to have to ditch because security won't let me bring it into the area around the old state prison where today's event is going to be held. My feet get wet in around ten minutes' time. Great.
No matter, it's good to meet my old friend, and as we head into the centre of Horsens, we're joined by another face from the past. The city of Horsens has decided to turn this day into a rock event with live metal music and air guitar competitions etc. in the pedestrian area of the city centre. The enthusiasm is quite naturally dampened a bit by the rain, although it's now finally ceasing to pour as adamantly as it was just half an hour ago. Perhaps this will be a fairly dry concert anyway? In the cafes and pubs of the city centre, metal fans are already making a bold effort of emptying the draught beer crates as we head towards the state prison.
The old state prison has been turned into a culture centre of sorts with a prison museum, concerts (Aerosmith will play here in two days, Volbeat in a few months) and the annual medieval festival. The fact that it's a prison gives the whole thing a different atmosphere from the outset, no doubt about that.
Once the gates open, the rock phenomenon GHOST from Sweden are ready in the full attire. Although they're hotter than hell, I haven't really listened to any of their music until today, and I'm surprised to hear that they most of all sound like a mixture of ABBA and Rammstein. Is it good? Yeah, in a way it does have a catchy quality to it, but I think I need to check out their albums before I can really judge if I like what they do. Have a creeping feeling that Ghost would have been a much more captivating experience in the dark - even if this is a cloudy afternoon, there's still lots of light.
Ghost - Satanic minstrel in full daylight
That French eco-metalheads GOJIRA are number two and not three on the bill today is a great mystery to me. They've proven themselves time and time again now and compared to what I know of Mastodon, Gojira completely outweighs them. With only half an hour to show us the goods, they pull out the frantic Explosia, Flying Whales, the monstrous colossus called Backbone, The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, the title track from the latest and most brilliant album, L'Enfant Sauvage and finally Toxic Garbage Island. Short but genuinely heavy.
The stage set-up is a bit of a challenge for Joe DuPlantier. He clearly wants to be physically more in the face of the crowd, but can't really find the time to run out on the extended podium. He only does so a couple of times, and he literally runs back and forth like a whirlwind. You can see in the picture here that bassist Jean-Michel has made the trip to the outer rim of the stage and how far away the stage proper is.
Anyhoo; it's always a pleasure to see and hear Gojira - today is no exception!
Gojira - wants to be in your face
I have to be completely frank and not pretend anything: I decide to let chatting to old mates I haven't seen for years be more important than seeing MASTODON. I wasn't really fascinated by them the last time I saw them (2012, this very same venue), and I haven't heard any recorded music from the Atlanteans that has convinced me that I have to be in the front row today.
What I can hear from where I'm standing doesn't make me change my mind. I'm not a fan.
[Rating: Wouldn't be fair.]
I move so much closer to the front row when it's finally time for SLAYER. My old school buddy, Claus, and myself are all of a sudden 17 again and bellow along to all the songs from back then: Necrophiliac, Mandatory Suicide, Captor of Sin, War Ensemble, Seasons in the Abyss, Dead Skin Mask, Raining Blood, Black Magic, South of Heaven and Angel of Death. These songs are so...massive! Also the newer songs, opener World Painted Blood, Hate Worldwide and Disciple go down excellently.
Kerry King turns fifty today, and to be honest, it's beginning to tell that he's not a springchick. When blown up on the big screens, Kerry looks tired, as does, in fact, Tom and Gary too. No matter, for me and Claus, this is one hell of a way to celebrate King's fiftieth, because the songs remain some of the most influential on our taste in music, and Slayer deliver the songs in way that perhaps isn't as intense as it used to be, but still with more power than a zillion bands out there can only envy.
The eagle has indeed landed...
Jeff may be gone - but never forgotten!
So, what's it going to be tonight, Lars? Chaos behind the drums or one of the good nights? Before tonight I've seen METALLICA five time, and two of those five have been scarred slightly by Lars Ulrich lack of precision and also Kirk Hammett's little cock-ups in the solos - which is a hard one to swallow when you're a big fan of the band and the music they've created.
But tonight, ladies and gentlemen, even Lars nails it. This is probably the technically best performance I've witnessed by the biggest world's biggest metal band. Yeah, there's something that goes a little weird in the beginning of St. Anger, but that's soon rectified and it turns out to be a very, very decent version of the title track of the most hated Metallica album of them all (not counting 'Lulu' as a Metallica album). Why St. Anger was requested by so many is bit of a mystery in itself, but nevermind that - it's not bad at all!
The whole Metallica by request idea is one that deserves a comment. First of all: It's really commercial. Secondly: It could have been a really good idea if all those fans out there who think that the black album and the same two songs off 'Master of Puppets' is all that matters had been barred from voting. In fact, it was really frustrating to learn that the setlist was so similar to the last time they played here. I, for one, had requested all the instrumentals. Wouldn't that have been amazing!? To hear Metalllica play all their instrumentals?! But no. I requested The Small Hours from 'Garagedays'...along with just about one other person or something. Instead we get Whiskey in the Jar (which I absolutely adore, but still, Small Hours is SO much darker and heavier and when did you last hear that one live?).
Thirdly: The text message voting to decide one of the three encores is plain silly (and particularly annoying to see how Creeping Death gets more votes than Blackened and Harvester of Sorrow!).
So, yeah, I'd probably have preferred for Metallica themselves to take control and decide on a setlist with rarer songs.
That said, Metallica tonight is a force to be reckoned with. Convincing, sharp and still a warm experience with a band that seems to love what it does. There are many highlights during the two and a half hour set, but Whereever I May Roam stands out as being particularly heavy tonight, and the epic ...And Justice for All is simply amazing. Also new song Lords of Summer fares well in my ears - it captures a lot of the atmosphere of 'Master...', and in that sense you could say there's nothing new under the sun, but it's a plainly a great song.
Metallica remain the biggest metal band on the planet - 'nuff said!
Here's the setlist:
2. Master of Puppets
3. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
4. Ride the Lightning
5. The Unforgiven
6. Lords of Summer
7. Wherever I May Roam
8. Sad but True
9. Fade to Black
10 ...And Justice for All
12. For Whom the Bell Tolls
13. Whiskey in the Jar
14. Nothing Else Matters
15. Enter Sandman
16. St. Anger
17. Creeping Death
18. Seek & Destroy
Attending: Thomas, Kenn,
Tommy and 35.000 others...