Full gallery from festival here
Last year we were leaving one of the best and biggest festivals in Europe, Nova Rock, spent, tired and dirty, but with absolutely incredible feeling and with our hearts filled with music. This year we could be a part of this amazing metal machine again hoping that last year’s feeling could be overcame with more greatness. Even though that this year’s line-up was not exactly that great and it somehow lacked some really big names, we’ve had fun, we’ve seen the best of the best, and screamed our lungs out.
Nickelsdorf in Austria is a small village, but with so big plains, that they could host thousands of crazy metalheads. And this year the grounds were hosting us not just for three days, which is the usual amount of time that an average person can spent on bear alone with music blasting into their ears. No, this year in June they obviously tried to test our resistance and badassness with fourth, warm-up day, to put us into the right festival mood.
Few of the restless ones came even before the warm-up day just to occupy the best spot possible. No one wants to have their weekend bedroom too far away from the entrance to the venue, but when you are too drunk and too spent, or just too amazed to move, you will crash practically wherever. In that case it is pretty nice to have your tent somewhere safe, before you find yourself sleeping beside some stranger. This is more likely to be the best thing that could happen. But that’s what a good festival is about, right? You don’t care, you just enjoy. Gathered in one place, Pannonia fields II, you could enjoy two main stages and a small one, bunch of takeaways, bungee jumping, ferris wheel, liters of beer, party tent and other things that are definitely a great part of any good festival. I mean, what would be a festival without merch or piercing and tattoo stand? But now let’s move to the most important thing this all is about. And that’s music.
The first day started pretty smoothly. No major fails, sometimes the sound was not absolutely great, but people were still practically bouncing on their heels just to see the bands perform. It is pretty common that the first bands do not get that much attention, but not this time. Warm-up day was supposed to make us want more, to make us scream our lungs out and be ready for whatever might come. And it did one hell of a job. Bands of the first day were performing only on Blue Stage, so the people could enjoy every single scream and riff until the very end without moving between stages. A Caustic Fate as the first band of the day did not particularly boiled the blood of fans, but Skillet surely did. The band moved from last year’s Red Bull Brandwagen stage to the Blue Stage this year and it was so worth it. Who would not love to see Jen Ledger going wild behind her drum set on the famous big Blue Stage? It was definitely a great sight for sore eyes.
After that the well-oiled machine was set off. But the biggest attractions were just coming next and people were just warming up. The weather was not playing nicely with us, but rain still did not stop us from enjoying the rest of the day. The broad genre mix of the day made it even more interesting. With the gods of Viking metal, Amon Amarth, coming up next, the weather started to come to its senses. And thank god that people could see properly without rain pouring down their faces, because there was so much to look at. Especially the awesome stage setup that the Vikings from Sweden brought with them. Two headed dragon with drum set on top. It reminded me a bit of Sabaton and their huge tank, since Johan Hegg could climb up there and see all the perfectly screamed out faces of the crowd.
As the day started nicely, even though with a slight problems with the sound, it ended even better. Of course, Korn took care of that. As the biggest attraction of the day they gave us what we wanted. Perfect sound, perfect setlist and it was obvious that the guys were enjoying it on the stage. But from my point of view, their show lacked a bit of interaction with the fans. Coming to shows, seeing musicians is also about being a part of their small little worlds, or letting them to be part of yours. About thinking that for the one hour you are the best friends and family. This was not what I was feeling while watching them perform, and as seeing them live for the first time, I have expected a bit more. But nonetheless, Jonathan Davis along with his band mates did amazing job by playing for us their best songs and making them worth of the title “headliner of the day.”
Even though first, warm-up day, was filled with great bands, for a lot of people the best things were just coming. Second day started with Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space, which practically says it all. This horrorpunk Austrian band with singer and drummer in one person started out great. Brought the right mood, spread it all over and then let the bigger names, as Tesseract and Atreyu to claim the stage. And with Atreyu it all went even wilder. Alex Varkatzas immediately with the second song, Right Side of the Bed, dived himself between the dedicated fans and that was all they needed. From the beginning until the end of their set they rocked with the band and screamed their lungs out.
So yes, the beginning was crazy, but so was the rest of the day. Especially since on both stages were playing great bands and some had no idea witch one to see or whether quickly skim to the other stage to see at least a half of the set. After Atreyu on the Red Stage went up Skindred with Benji Webbe as usually dressed in awesome outfit. And of course they gave us all they have got, with a cherry on top of that. Benji’s message was nice and clear – live in neutrality, love each other. Some might not like when a message with a slight political underlining is let out like this by a band or a musician, but then again, at the end it will stuck with the people even more.
After their set most of the alternative and punk oriented fans left the red stage to leave it for Children of Bodom fans, to enjoy Garbage and The Offspring after them on the Blue Stage. And hell, those guys already in their years, but still with young and crazy soul, gave us an amazing show. Either it was beautiful, pink haired Shirley Manson and her amazing clear voice or The Offspring guys that performed their usual and the best known ones. Starting with You’re Gonna Go Far and ending with Self Esteem their set included also Kids Aren’t Alright, Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), Americana or Gotta Get Away. It was definitely worth it to stay and even skip Bullet for my Valentine. But those guys from Wales, as already the band that would play nearly every single Nova Rock festival, were no worse than their Huntington Beach friends from The Offspring. The music style is of course absolutely different, but they do not have that different fan base. So choosing between those two might have been kinda hard and the organizers did not win it that much with the timetables. But well, if you want to see them, you have to arrange it in the best way possible. Which usually means just skimming between the stages.
But to stop paying all the attention to Blue and Red stage, let’s move for a bit to the Red Bull Brandwagen stage as well. For one particular moment and band, that could be considered as a next year’s candidate for Red or Blue stage. Last year it was definitely Skillet, this time I would definitely say New Years Day. This band played their set around the same time as Garbage, but still a lot of people gathered in front of tiny Red Bull Brandwagen stage. Amazing lyrics combined with clean voice of Ash Costello and a bit of screaming that is placed greatly into their songs attracted a lot of people and the guys on the stage knew how to make the fans love them. So maybe next year we will actually see them on Red or Blue stage and I, personally, would not be surprised.
So the second day came with number of awesome bands, total mix of genres and The Offspring had definitely the biggest crowd. But for me the best ones of the day were totally Disturbed. The moment the characteristic voice of David Draiman spread over the Pannonian Fields they had the fans paying all their attention to them only. Even more when Benji Webbe joined them on the stage to perform Rage Against the Machine cover Killing in the Name. It is not unusual that the band calls their friends to perform this song with them and Benji was this year on Nova Rock a great choice. Disturbed picked great songs from their long and amazing repertoire that included Inside the Fire, The Light, Ten Thousand Fists and also few more covers by U2, Genesis and The Who.
I would say that Disturbed concluded the second day perfectly. And even though it still seemed that the people were not that crazy, or maybe not as drunk as last year, the festival was only in its first half, slowly getting to the second. Third day full of mixed genres as well, especially on the Red Stage. And to be honest, this line up was definitely not what I expected from a festival such as Nova Rock. Okay, if they wanted to break the stigma of being only metal and rock festival with some alternative music in the mix, fine, I am okay with it. Even with trying to broaden the genre scale for other type of fans. But sometimes it does more harm than good.
Just to name few – punk rock, indie pop, country, hip-hop… of course, many people could find that interesting and have fun, it doesn’t mean that metalheads cannot enjoy hip-hop or Tom Odell. But most of the attention was still payed to the Blue stage which was getting ready for third day’s headliners – Alice Cooper and Volbeat.
Place in front of Blue stage was full from the afternoon since the first band started playing, but with Caliban, metalcore band from Germany, people were seriously getting crazier with every song. Caliban is not new at all at Nova Rock and there is a rule already that those guys do not need to even start the second song and people are practically beating themselves up in huge circle pits and are unceasingly crowd surfing. A show hard to forget may I add. Especially by those ones in first rows who are getting smashed against the barriers. But that’s the prize of wanting to see and hear everything perfectly. Crowdsurfing fans gave the security guys a bit of work, but at least it now seemed that Nova Rock is getting into its old crazy tracks again. All this madness continued with August Burns Red that came after Caliban and did not stop even with Dropkick Murphys. A band that is not metalcore at all, more like celtic punk, but even this genre was enjoyed greatly. Those guys are so fun to listen to and it was a nice lay-off from the heavy metalcore tones, but still not boring at all.
But their time was over and finally one of the headliners was coming up on stage. Alice Cooper, a.k.a a man that can make one show into a full theatre experience. Every song had its own place in the story which was flowing smoothly. Alice got his head cut off, then big Frankenstein came up on stage, then he was abused by a busty and nasty nurse and got himself nearly killed again. And even though that he is already in his years, it is not seen at all on his performance. He was pretty much amazing – clean voice, great stage acts. Not to mention that people were staring at the rest of his band with open mouths. Three guitarists and a bassist were doing what they do best and enjoying every single minute of it. Especially it could be seen on Nita Strauss – a beautiful blond that can do wonders to her guitar. Heaven to our ears.
The only problem of this perfect evening was the rain. After one day of dry but not that hot weather the rain came again, which for some meant a spoiled evening, but the rest did not care about such a thing. They were already wet from spilled beers and sweat. Not to mention that Volbeat were coming up next and even though that they kept the fans waiting for about half an hour, it was worth it. This Danish band got really huge in recent years and there’s no wonder why. Their fusion of rock and roll, heavy metal and rockabilly with characteristic voice of Michael Poulsen is what attracts the fans the most. Especially the original sound tips that Michael is known for. Their last album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady ladies was a huge success and it seems that the new one is going to be just as well.
All in all, on Blue Stage it was heavy, hard and great on the third day of Nova Rock. The fourth day was promising as well with a nice line-up on both stages. It all started with Wendis Böhmische Blasmusik on the Red stage. It’s practically a tradition for this brass band to play on the last day of Nova Rock while people strengthened by free beer are beating themselves up in mosh pits and jumping around since before noon. Nice warming up for the rest of the day, which continued on the Red Stage with names such as We Came As Romans or Behemoth. This Polish band is known for their hard and technically perfect death metal which they played for Nova Rock fans amazingly well.
The last day on blue stage was marked by punk, hip-hop and some alternative and nu-metal vibes. The mood was brought up absolutely high with NOFX, a punk rock band from LA. Those guys were having an absolute blast on the stage and the mood was flowing directly to the crowd. But their type of music was not for someone who wanted to hear good singing voice. That one you could definitely have again with a metalcore band from US Killswitch Engage on the Red Stage. They came to us with their seventh studio album that saw the light for the first time in March this year. And Jesse Leach’s voice was great. His clean singing was more controlled than before Incarnate came out, what he proved during their set very nicely and also showed us how dirty can his screaming voice can be.
Killswitch Engage managed to warm up the audience greatly before the wait for the last two bands of this year’s Nova Rock festival. One would think that it will be again hard to choose which band to see, but this time the timetable was merciful. Twisted Sister came up on the Red stage in all their glory and landed the bomb right in the middle of the venue. Dee Snider was dancing all over the stage, singing, screaming, rolling around and hell, the youngsters in the audience could envy him his physique. He seemed to never go out of breath no matter what crazy moves he pulled.
Their last time ever on Nova Rock as a part of their tour called Forty and Fuck it was made worth out time billion times more that could have been expected. The audience was swallowing every tone, beat and riff with wide eyes and the band gave them their hearts on their palms in return. Plus their decision to include Mike Portnoy as the drummer for this last tour, after AJ Pero passed out, was a great one. Portnoy is known from Dream Theatre, Adrenaline Mob and several other project including Avenged Sevenfold after the passing of Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan where he did an amazing job as well filling for their late drummer.
Twisted fucking Sister should have been in my opinion the main headliner of the day. And basically they were since they left great feeling of warmness and joy in us, definitely more than Red Hot Chili Peppers that came up on the Blue stage after them.
Some might have been waiting maybe even years to see those guys and they were finally having their dream coming true. And it is known that there are two camps of people. The one that love them up to the sky and back and then those who think that their whole repertoire sounds like one hell of a long and boring song. Which did not change with the newest album either. But in a reality they were a bit of a disappointment. Okay, they played all their biggest hits and true, there are not only a handful. But their performance was downright boring. It didn’t have the energy that was expected and the only good thing was probably just the stage setup with numbers of round screens. But despite all this the area in front of the stage was still crowded and you could hear the teenage girls screaming every time some well-known song came up next. However, whether the feelings that Red Hot Chili Peppers left in the people were what they had expected is somehow debatable. More than few said definitely not and that’s already saying something.
Just like that even the last day was over and with it the whole Nova Rock 2016. This time they thankfully did not forget to conclude the festival with fireworks and pretty amazing one. Let’s be honest, after Red Hot Chili Peppers performance it was kinda needed. A great cherry on top of the cake that Nova Rock was. And even though this year’s line up was nothing that spectacular as the year before and the atmosphere seemed to lack the usual awesomeness, we had still a blast. Farewell and see you next year!
Text by: Zuzana Tomkova
Photos by: Ivana Niwy Kovacova